The Unimaginable Reality of American Concentration Camps

Masha Gessen, writing for The New Yorker:

Like many arguments, the fight over the term “concentration camp” is mostly an argument about something entirely different. It is not about terminology. Almost refreshingly, it is not an argument about facts. This argument is about imagination, and it may be a deeper, more important conversation than it seems.

Whatever you want to call them, the camps holding migrant children are horrific and all Americans should be ashamed their government is doing this in their name.

Amazon's Choice Is An Algorithmic Mess

Nicole Nguyen, writing for BuzzFeed News:

When you’re looking at a search result with hundreds of options on Amazon, the “Amazon’s Choice” label may give you a sense of relief. The label’s name and prominent placement seem to imply that listings with the “Amazon’s Choice” designation — even more authoritative than a simple “Best-Selling” badge — are a curated selection of products reviewed and tested by the company, and highlighted for shoppers looking for similar products. But “Amazon’s Choice” isn’t that at all, and here’s the disappointing news: It’s a label automatically awarded to listings by an algorithm based on customer reviews, price, and whether the product is in stock. And those choices Amazon’s software makes aren’t always reliable — in fact, sometimes they’re Amazon-recommended crap.

“Amazon’s Choice” has apparently been around since 2015, but I’ve only noticed it while shopping on the website in the last few months and the things with the label almost always look like junk. Increasingly, if you want to buy something from Amazon, you need to know the exact product you want before ever going to their website, make extra-sure the product you do find on Amazon matches up with what you want and probably make sure that you’re buying something sold and shipped by Amazon.com and not a third-party who might be selling knock-offs. Sometimes, even that isn’t enough.

Tulsi Gabbard and Her 2020 Presidential Campaign

Kerry Howley, writing in New York:

“We share a deep love,” Tulsi says to a standing-room-only crowd of 200. She talks about love a lot in a way that might have provoked eye rolls pre-Trump but now just sounds appealingly weird. A Hindu veteran and millennial congresswoman of Samoan descent hailing from Hawaii, she brings together disparate constituencies: most noticeably, Bernie Sanders fans who love that she resigned from the Democratic National Committee to endorse him in 2016, but also libertarians who appreciate her noninterventionism, Indian-Americans taken by her professed Hinduism, veterans attracted to her credibility on issues of war and peace, and racists who interpret various statements she has made to be promising indications of Islamophobia. That she is polling at one percent, sandwiched between Andrew Yang and Amy Klobuchar, suggests that bringing together these constituencies is not nearly enough, but the intensity of emotion she provokes on all sides sets her apart.

With two or three dozen people running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, I wouldn’t generally recommend spending thirty minutes reading a profile on a candidate polling so low and unlikely to be able to change that, but this one is well worth reading.

Severance by Ling Ma

★★★☆☆

Severance by Ling Ma about a young woman surviving in a post-apocalyptic world. A disease called Shen Fever is spreading across the world, causing people to perform rote tasks over and over again until they die. Candace Chen is a young production manager at a book publisher and as the epidemic worsens and people begin to leave New York City, she decides to take her employer’s offer of a large sum of money to stay and continue working. She has no family and no where to go. New York is her home.

As work dries up (many of the workers at the print factory in Shenzen become fevered and can’t fulfill what few orders are still being made) and New York deteriorates with more people continuing leaving, Chen re-starts an old photo-blog called NY Ghost and documents what is happening to the city. Eventually things get so bad she decides that it is finally time for her to leave, long after everyone else has. She falls in with a group of survivors led by a man named Bob. They’re making their way to a place called the Facility, which turns out to be a mall near Chicago that Bob spent much of his childhood in.

Ending a post-apocalyptic novel is a challenge (see many of Stephen King’s novels and people’s reactions to them) and I feel this one’s ending is abrupt and not completely satisfying. But up until that point, Ling Ma’s debut novel, in which Chen alternates between narratives of her current situation and of her childhood as the daughter of Chinese immigrants who came to America so she could have a better life, is compelling and interesting and makes the three hundred pages go by quickly.