Dear Weekend Jolter,
The call-up of hundreds of thousands of Russian “reservists” is not going well.
Protests have erupted in recent days in the region of Dagestan, and elsewhere, over Vladimir Putin’s conscription decree, with videos showing women demanding answers from police and crowds clashing with the authorities. Russians have gone beyond protesting to attack recruitment offices. Thousands have been arrested across the country since last week.
The Economist, in explaining Putin’s predicament, noted that the Russian dictator could not order “mass conscription” without threatening his own regime, and so he opted for the “partial mobilization” of roughly 300,000 troops. Yet 300,000 appears to be significant enough to have sparked a new backlash against his war, and the social-media amplification of forlorn scenes of young men being called to fight gives the impression of mass conscription all the same. Reports indicate that the real number of troops sought could be higher and that even men without military experience have been ordered to fight. Penalties for not complying are severe.
The class divide is making it worse: As videos emerge of angry recruits arguing with officers and of families giving tearful goodbyes, the New York Times reports that those with certain white-collar jobs will be spared. “Stories like this can only fuel that swirling discontent that might eventually induce the Russian street to rise up over the unfairness of this situation and threaten Putin’s regime,” Mark Antonio Wright notes. The mobilization rollout has gone so poorly for the Kremlin that Putin this week did a thing he never does. Here’s Mark, again:
Putin was today forced to admit “mistakes” — not his, of course! — during Russia’s mobilization, telling a televised meeting of the security council that “those who were called up without proper reason should be returned home.” As has been widely reported, the Kremlin’s commissars were drafting completely untrained or ineligible men into the army when, at least officially, they were only supposed to be calling up reservists, men who already had military training. The fact that Putin was forced to admit error here goes to show the breadth of the anger that was touched off by the incompetence of Russia’s very Russian mobilization.
Other indicators speak to the palpable resistance inside Russia to the war, or at least to the mobilization. In the aftermath of Putin’s announcement, demand surged for flights out of Russia, especially to destinations where Russians don’t need a visa. “How to leave Russia” was a top Google search. Tens of thousands of men reportedly have fled. Peter Spiliakos wrote on NRO that Putin is paying a price, in many ways, for his Ukraine campaign; he cited the mobilization as another sign of how events have turned against him:
This was a step that Putin had resisted taking for six months, until the successful Ukrainian offensive in the Kharkiv area forced his hand. It was also an admission that his professional military of contract soldiers has failed. From now on, more and more of the Russian fighting and dying will be done by troops who had refused to join up for reasons of either patriotism or money until now, and more and more of the mourning will be done by the families of those same Russian conscripts. It’s not hard to see why Putin resisted such a mobilization for so long.
Conscription may solve Putin’s manpower problem, somewhat. It creates more domestic political problems. While Putin was busy granting citizenship to Edward Snowden and possibly or possibly not bombing the Nord Stream pipeline this week, his country was turning into a tinderbox. He shows no compunction about cracking down on dissent, and, as this piece in Politico Magazine notes, autocracies are stubborn things even in the face of draft protests. But a rushed and rowdy conscription could fuel an equally ineffective effort to turn the tide in the war, thus emboldening the opposition further. In another inauspicious sign of how it’s going, prominent Putin critic Bill Browder tweeted a photo purportedly showing a list sent to draftees asking them to supply their own gear.
Since February, Putin has visited horror after horror upon Ukraine. His “partial mobilization” visits horror upon more ordinary Russians. The rank-and-file appear to realize this. The New York Times just published audio of intercepted calls Russian soldiers made to family and friends. They complain about their mission and their commanders, and the slaughter they’re being ordered to carry out. “Putin is a fool.” “F*** the army.” “They gave us the order to kill everyone we see.” “The stupidest decision our government ever made.” “We were f***ing fooled like little kids.”
These were from March. Imagine what those phone calls sound like today.
NAME. RANK. LINK.
The protest movement in Iran deserves unfettered American support, and the regime unfettered condemnation: The Butchers of Iran
We are shocked, shocked that Manchin’s “deal” with Schumer didn’t work out: Joe Manchin Did Not Get Played on Permitting Reform
A Republican governor in Oregon? It’s not out of the question: Oregon’s Republican Hope
Charles C. W. Cooke: The Case for Dismantling the FBI
Will Swaim: California Über Alles?
Senator John Barrasso: Biden’s Political Abuse of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve
Pradheep J. Shanker: Fetal Heartbeats Are a Scientific Fact
Michael Brendan Dougherty: Giorgia Meloni’s Election Isn’t about ‘Fascism’
Brittany Bernstein: Mandela Barnes’s Soft-on-Crime History May Haunt Him in Wisconsin Senate Race
Jack Butler: Justice Alito’s Call to Action
Here’s Dominic Pino, with more bad economic news (don’t blame the messenger): Transportation Woes Warn of Recession
And one more from Dominic, on why you should hate the Jones Act too: Biden’s Support for the Jones Act Illustrates His Economic Incoherence
LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.
“How was such a dishonest film ever green-lighted?” Armond White wants to know: Don’t Trust Don’t Worry Darling
FROM THE NEW, OCTOBER 17, 2022, ISSUE OF NR
Andrew Stuttaford: How Europe Invited Its Energy Crisis
Christine Rosen: Kamala Harris Finds Her Level of Incompetence
Michael Brendan Dougherty: DeSantis Is Painting Florida Red
Ryan Mills: The Herschel Walker Wager
Luther Ray Abel: The Great Partisan Divide, in Dairyland
YOU LOOK LIKE YOU COULD USE SOME EXCERPTS
In late August, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that it had to cancel the launch of its Artemis I rocket. A spokesperson for the space agency told the Associated Press that the delay had been caused by a “cascade of problems culminating in unexplained engine trouble.”
Substitute “political trouble” for “engine trouble” and you would have an apt description of the vice presidency of Kamala Harris, who was at the Kennedy Space Center to witness the launch as chairwoman of the National Space Council. It was yet another missed opportunity for Harris to look competent and statesmanlike.
Some of her previous, more disastrous efforts to do so include “Get Curious with Vice President Harris,” a video in which she meets with children to mark World Space Week. “Momala” (as Harris styles herself on Twitter) tries to turn on the charm, but even the hired child actors can’t feign enthusiasm for her stilted efforts to connect. It looks like a hostage video.
Harris’s efforts at public speaking have been similarly torturous: At a speech in Louisiana in March, she rambled about “the significance of the passage of time,” repeating the phrase four times while failing to say anything of substance. In another speech at a climate summit, she claimed, “We will work together, to address these issues, to tackle these challenges, and to work together as we continue to work operating from the new norms, rules, and agreements that we will convene to work together on to galvanize global action.” Somehow her public performances always end up sounding like they were delivered by glitchy AI.
Kamala Harris ranks among the worst vice presidents in modern memory, with historically low approval ratings. How did this happen? She was supposed to be the perfect liberal hero: a woman of color with experience as a prosecutor, a state attorney general, and a U.S. senator. Having been picked as a running mate and an energetic counterpart to the ageing Joe Biden, she was determined not to fade into the background of what early on was promoted as the “Biden-Harris administration.”
But Harris’s seemingly perfect identity-politics résumé is perhaps the main reason she has proven to be unsuited to the task. Having risen to power in deep-blue California, she has rarely been seriously criticized or forced to defend herself to voters or colleagues who weren’t already on her side. As a result, she has never had to develop the charisma, persuasiveness, and eloquence of a successful politician. She was chosen as VP only after Biden had dramatically narrowed his criteria by declaring he would choose a woman of color for the position. When pressed in interviews to explain something, Harris often retreats to her identity. Asked on 60 Minutes whether she brought a socialist or progressive perspective to the Democratic ticket, a clearly annoyed Harris said: “It is the perspective of — of a woman who grew up a black child in America, who was also a prosecutor, who also has a mother who arrived here at the age of 19 from India. Who also, you know, likes hip-hop. Like, what do you wanna know?”
ICYMI, John McCormack and Brittany Bernstein debuted a new midterm-campaign newsletter this week, the Horse Race, which you can and should check out here. They look at the Wisconsin Senate race and much more — and Brittany breaks off a separate deep dive on that race here:
U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes’s history of being soft on crime as Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor could prove a defining factor in a close race against incumbent senator Ron Johnson (R., Wis.).
Barnes has come under fire in recent weeks over reports that his campaign did not actually receive endorsements from two law-enforcement officers, as he previously claimed. One day after a La Crosse County sheriff’s captain denied endorsing the Democrat, a second sheriff’s office official from Racine County came forward saying the campaign made a “mistake” in including him on the endorsement list as well.
The lieutenant governor’s attempts to tout support from law enforcement come as his opponent has repeatedly sought to bring Barnes’s cloudy past on the “defund the police” movement to light.
Barnes officially came out against defunding the police in January. Yet Heather Smith from Wisconsin’s John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy says Barnes is trying to rewrite history and “gaslight” the public on the issue.
Barnes, whose campaign has received funding from five groups that support defunding the police, tweeted in July 2020: “Defunding the police only dreams of being as radical as a Donald Trump pardon.”
Amazon’s business relationships with two Chinese surveillance giants, Hikvision and Dahua, may violate a law prohibiting federal contractors from doing business with certain Chinese firms, a joint investigation by National Review and IPVM, a surveillance and security research group, reveals. While lawmakers are calling out these practices, Amazon has defended them and maintains that it is in full compliance with the law.
Specifically, the Seattle-based tech giant might be running afoul of a provision in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act barring contracts with firms that use certain Chinese surveillance hardware or software. One potentially significant issue is that Amazon Web Services simultaneously provides cloud Internet services to the U.S. National Security Agency and Hikvision, which the U.S. government designated as a Chinese military-industrial complex company last year.
“Facing a clear threat to federal networks, Congress drew a line in the sand for its contractors: if you do business with Hikvision or Dahua, you can’t do business with the federal government,” said Conor Healy, IPVM’s director of government research. “Amazon seems determined to do the opposite. It is actively facilitating and incubating the very threat Congress sought to mitigate.”
Even absent the NDAA ban, enforcement of which is spotty, the record of the two Chinese surveillance firms — neither of which responded to NR’s requests for comment — should be cause for concern. In 2019, Hikvision and Dahua were both blacklisted by the Commerce Department for their extensive work with the authorities in Xinjiang, as the Chinese Communist Party built out a sophisticated police state to systematically target ethnic minorities in the region.
Dahua sells cameras that can identify Uyghur faces, with an alarm that goes off when they are in view. The company characterizes this as a smart-policing feature to detect “real-time Uyghur warnings” and “hidden terrorist inclinations.” Hikvision, in addition to providing cameras used in Xinjiang prison camps, sells “tiger chair” torture and interrogation systems, among other things. Hikvision also has a well-documented relationship with the Chinese military, providing the People’s Liberation Army air force with drone jammers, and pitching its technology as key to improving missile and tank systems.
Nate Hochman delivered a scoop this week in the college-campus-cancel-culture wars:
Judge James C. Ho of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit announced Thursday that he would no longer be hiring law clerks from Yale Law School and urged other judges to follow suit. In a keynote address to the Kentucky Chapters Conference of the Federalist Society, titled “Agreeing to Disagree — Restoring America by Resisting Cancel Culture,” Ho cited a number of high-profile examples of speakers being shouted down or otherwise censored at law schools across the country but singled out Yale Law as “one particular law school where cancellations and disruptions seem to occur with special frequency.”
“Yale not only tolerates the cancellation of views — it actively practices it,” Ho said, according to prepared remarks exclusively obtained by National Review. “Starting today, I will no longer hire law clerks from Yale Law School. And I hope that other judges will join me as well.”
Ho has made waves in the past for his outspoken criticisms of left-wing campus culture. In February, in the wake of Georgetown Law’s suspension of Ilya Shapiro, the judge surprised the audience at a Federalist Society–organized event on Georgetown Law’s campus by giving a resounding defense of Shapiro during a speech that was initially intended to be about originalism. At the time, Ho acknowledged that he “was scheduled to talk” about originalism but said he’d “decided . . . to spend my time today talking about Ilya Shapiro.” In those remarks, which garnered significant public attention, Ho delivered blistering criticism of the campus attitudes that had led to Shapiro’s ouster, arguing that “cancel culture is not just antithetical to our constitutional culture and our American culture,” but “to the very legal system that each of you seeks to join,” and declared: “If Ilya Shapiro is deserving of cancellation, then you should go ahead and cancel me too.”
Ho’s half-hour address to the Kentucky Federalist Society conference sounded similar notes, arguing that “all too often, law schools appear to be run by the mob — whether out of sympathy or spinelessness.”
• National Review Institute honored Larry Kudlow and Young America’s Foundation at the Buckley Prize dinner in Simi Valley, Calif., earlier this week. You can catch up on how it all went down, thanks to Kathryn Jean Lopez’s dispatch. (And you can catch Kudlow on David Bahnsen’s Capital Record podcast here.)
• The successor to Mad Dogs & Englishmen is now fully operational. The Charles C. W. Cooke Podcast rolled out Episode One this week, starring . . . well, that part might be obvious. Even under threat of hurricane, Charlie managed to bring the new thing to the Internet. Listen in, as he explains the format, interviews author Troy Senik on Grover Cleveland, and talks baseball with Dan McLaughlin.
• Some new books of note are hitting the shelves: Fred Lucas, over at the Daily Signal, is out with The Myth of Voter Suppression: The Left’s Assault on Clean Elections; for a taste, see the adapted excerpt we ran at NRO last weekend. And a former colleague and boss (well, boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s . . . he was a Fox jefe), John Moody, is out with a new novel, The World We Wish, a timely thriller about modern China, the metaverse, Uyghur persecution, AI, and other assorted uplifting things.
Armin Rosen, at Tablet: A Hate Crime a Day Keeps the DOJ Away
A. B. Stoddard, at RealClearPolitics: Are Progressives Nearing a Reckoning With Their Party?
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, at UnHerd: What Western feminists can learn from Iran
Dan recently wrote about the new Creedence documentary, which makes me think about how another country could use a culturally overpowering war-protest movement, today. “Fortunate Son” must capture what the non-elite Russians being called from the countryside to the front lines of a pointless war must be thinking. They ain’t no senator’s son.