Encounter Intelligence

Aug 15

Where’s the Omelet?


Walter Duranty’s line about communism, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs,” was all too relevant in Castro’s Cuba. The Castro Regime took a monumental toll on Cuba’s population — Humberto Fontova writes:

"The Stalinist regime Fidel Castro imposed on Cuba stole the savings and property of 6.4 million citizens, made refugees of 20 per cent of the population from a nation formerly deluged with immigrants whose citizens had achieved a higher standard of living than those residing in half of Europe."

"Freedom House estimates that half a million Cubans have passed through Castro’s gulag. That’s out of a Cuban population at the time of 6.5 million.”

"Fidel Castro’s regime murdered more people (out of a population of 6.5 million) in its first three years in power than Hitler’s regime murdered (out of a population of 65 million) in its first six."

But you wouldn’t know this from the mainstream media—which either romanticizes Castro as a fashionable counter-cultural hipster revolutionary (even at 87) or—at worst—excuses him as a doddering relic from our geopolitical past who, yes, broke a few eggs in ancient times (the 1960s). 

Read more about Castro, the media, and Cuba’s omelet in The Longest Romance: The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro.

Aug 14

On The “Childfree” Life


TIME's recent cover story by Lauren Sandler, "The Childfree Life: When Having It All Means Not Having Children", defends the rise in women who are opting out of the “glamorous martyrdom of child rearing,” as one subject put it, for a “childfree” life. 

Sandler writes that 1 in 5 women are opting out of motherhood, up from 1 in 10 in the 1970s. As a result, the American birth rate has plunged to “the lowest in recorded American history, which includes the fertility crash of the Great Depression.” But Sandler brushes off concerns about our baby bust as paternalistic scolding against childless women.

It’s not an uncommon sentiment. Amanda Marcotte put it less elegantly in Slate, writing:”Conservative men have always had an obsession with starting ‘em young and keeping ‘em knocked up, which protects a way of life these men have grown accustomed to: lotsa babymaking makes it difficult for women to compete with men economically, increasing female dependency on men…” Etc. 

We think there’s more to it than that. 

As Jonathan Last wrote in The Wall Street Journal andWhat to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic DisasterAmerica’s collapsing birth rate can snowball into intractable problems that hurt us all—child-free women included:

The nation’s falling fertility rate underlies many of our most difficult problems. Once a country’s fertility rate falls consistently below replacement, its age profile begins to shift. You get more old people than young people. And eventually, as the bloated cohort of old people dies off, population begins to contract. This dual problem—a population that is disproportionately old and shrinking overall—has enormous economic, political and cultural consequences.

For two generations we’ve been lectured about the dangers of overpopulation. But the conventional wisdom on this issue is wrong, twice. First, global population growth is slowing to a halt and will begin to shrink within 60 years. Second, as the work of economists Esther Boserups and Julian Simon demonstrated, growing populations lead to increased innovation and conservation. Think about it: Since 1970, commodity prices have continued to fall and America’s environment has become much cleaner and more sustainable—even though our population has increased by more than 50%. Human ingenuity, it turns out, is the most precious resource.

Low-fertility societies don’t innovate because their incentives for consumption tilt overwhelmingly toward health care. They don’t invest aggressively because, with the average age skewing higher, capital shifts to preserving and extending life and then begins drawing down. They cannot sustain social-security programs because they don’t have enough workers to pay for the retirees. They cannot project power because they lack the money to pay for defense and the military-age manpower to serve in their armed forces.

Among other things.

Sandler’s Literary One-Child Policy

Shortly before the TIME cover story ran, Zadie Smith, writer and mother of two, was miffed by Sandler’s assertion that raising more than one child will limit a woman’s career as a writer. Smith blasted Sandler’s Literary One-Child Policy:

I have two children. Dickens had 10 – I think Tolstoy did, too. Did anyone for one moment worry that those men were becoming too fatherish to be writeresque? … Are four children a problem for the writer Michael Chabon – or just for his wife, the writer Ayelet Waldman?”


We think, per Jonathan Last’s writings, that there may be something to the Dickens Ten-Child Policy. (Dickens with family pictured above)

Where Are the Men?

The Week's Emily Shire (along with Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams) takes issue with Sandler for not consulting the other party that is “opting out” of parenthood — men:

One of the biggest problems with the piece is that pretty much only women are interviewed….by essentially choosing not to question men about their decisions to remain child-free because society already gives them a “free-pass,” Sandler does a disservice to the issue. “Where, in Lauren Sandler’s examination of the ‘maternal instinct,’ is a question about the paternal one?” presses Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon. “Where, in any of it, is the thoughtful, reasoned voice of a guy who just doesn’t want to be on the daddy track?”

On this we prescribe Dr. Helen Smith’s Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream - and Why it Matters. As Smith explained to the Huffington Post, men are opting out of fatherhood because there are simply too many incentives for them not to marry in the first place:

You could lose your kids, and your money. And they may not even be your kids. Lots of men I spoke with were keenly aware of the dangers of divorce, and worried that if they were married and it went sour, the woman might take everything, including the kids. Other men were concerned that they might wind up paying child support for kids who aren’t even theirs - a very real possibility in many states.

You’ll lose in court. Men often complain that the family court legal system is stacked against them, and in fact it seems to be. Women gain custody and child support the majority of the time, as pointed out in this ABC News article: “Despite the increases in men seeking and receiving alimony, advocates warn against linking the trend to equality in the courtroom. Family court judges still tend to favor women, said Ned Holstein, the founder of Fathers & Families, a group advocating family court reform.”

Single life is better than ever. While the value of marriage to men has declined, the quality of single life has improved. Single men were once looked on with suspicion, passed over for promotion for important jobs, which usually valued “stable family men,” and often subjected to social opprobrium. It was hard to have a love life that wasn’t aimed at marriage, and premarital sex was risky and frowned upon. Now, no one looks askance at the single lifestyle, dating is easy, and employers probably prefer employees with no conflicting family responsibilities.


There’s more — much more — on these topics in the pages of Jonathan V. Last’s What to Expect When No One’s Expecting and Dr. Helen Smith’s Men on Strike    

Aug 13

It’s Fidel Castro’s Birthday


Fidel Castro is 87 today. Here is what some prominent Americans have had to say about Cuba’s Stalinist dictator over the years:

“Fidel Castro could have been Cuba’s Elvis!” — Dan Rather

“Fidel Castro is one hell of a guy! You people would like him!”
 — Ted Turner to a capacity crowd at Harvard Law School during a speech in 1997

“Fidel Castro is old-fashioned, courtly—even paternal, a thoroughly fascinating figure!” — Andrea Mitchell

“Castro has brought very high literacy and great health-care to his country. His personal magnetism is powerful, his presence is commanding.” — Barbara Walters

“Viva Fidel! Viva Che!” — Jesse Jackson

"Fidel Castro is very shy and sensitive, I frankly like him and regard him as a friend."
 — George McGovern

[Fidel Castro is] “Very selfless and moral. One of the world’s wisest men.”
 — Oliver Stone

[Fidel Castro is] “A genius.”
 — Jack Nicholson

(via Humberto Fontova ) 

Fidel Castro jailed political prisoners at a higher rate than Stalin during the Great Terror. He murdered more Cubans in his first three years in power than Hitler did in his first six. Alone among world leaders, Castro came within inches from igniting a global nuclear holocaust.

But you would never know it from the media. 

Read more in Humberto Fontova’s The Longest Romance: The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro — out today. 



Rush Limbaugh and Conrad Black on Flight of the Eagle and America’s Rise (in GIFs)

Rush Limbaugh discussed Flight of the Eagle with author Conrad Black in the August issue of The Limbaugh Letter. It’s worth subscribing to the Letter for this this sprawling six-page interview alone. We’ve pulled a few teasers — and dramatized them with GIFs: 

'It's astounding the influence the British have had as a little island, producing the English language, the common law, the parliamentary system, and most of the free market originally. But it handed the ball, albeit involuntarily, to the Americans - and the Americans had this mighty continent to fill out and use as a platform from which to propagate precisely those ideals, but with far greater natural geopolitical strength than the British had.’

Animated Gif on Giphy

'Andrew Jackson had established the principle that secession would be tolerated south of the Missouri Compromise line, the Missouri-Arkansas border, but secession would not be tolerated in South Carolina, for which he threatened to hang his Vice President - an interesting precedent had he done it - from that point until the terrible problems of the Great Depression, it was a predestined country.’


'From the Civil War to the First World War, the U.S. population almost tripled. And most of the Presidents between Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, 35 years, were perfectly distinguished men but they didn’t really have to do anything. They just had to let America be America and it just grew.’

Animated Gif on Giphy

'…one of the most underrated figures in American history, President James K. Polk, took 1.2 million square miles from the Mexicans - the states of Texas and California included, but all the way up to Utah.’

Animated Gif on Giphy

Subscribe to the Limbaugh Letter and read the entirety of this terrific interview.

And check out Conrad Black’s must-read Flight of the Eagle: The Grand Strategies That Brought America from Colonial Dependence to World Leadership.  



Aug 09

Where Every Week is Shark Week


Humberto Fontova describes a place where every week is “Shark Week.” In the Florida Straits, untold numbers of Cuban refugees vanish every year. Many of them are claimed by sharks:

Right off the southern Florida coast an estimated 70-80,000 people have perished since 1961 on the high seas, a large but unknown number of these at the hands (jaws, actually) of sharks. To this day most airborne rescuers report seeing sharks in the vicinity of most Cuban rafters. Many have observed attacks. Most survivors mention sharks and shark attacks often during their terrible voyage.

But you will never hear about this on the Discovery Channel. Fontova suggests why:  

The Discovery Channel, you see, is a major business partner of the Castro regime… 

The Discovery Channel’s “Buena Vista Fishing Videos” dramatize their business partnership with Castro. This show features sport-fishing videos filmed in full partnership with the Stalinist regime’s ministry of tourism. These attract a large number of well-heeled sport fishermen from around the world to Cuba’s “unspoiled” and “fish-filled” coastal waters.

Read the full piece here.

Discovery is not the only network with whom Castro has forged a working relationship. Read more about Castro’s long-standing propaganda campaign in the American media in Humberto Fontova’s new book, The Longest Romance: The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro