Pearl Harbor: Witness to a Fading Fighting Spirit

Pearl Harbor: Witness to a Fading Fighting Spirit

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How many remember the seventh of December?

From the spectacular pineapple plantations on the North Shore, to the tranquility of Kaneohe Bay, to the hustle and bustle of a seemingly overpopulated Honolulu, the Hawaiian island of Oahu sits tranquil amid its isolation in the Pacific.

Yesterday, December 7, the island state remembered when 69 years ago hundreds of fighter planes from the Imperial Japanese Navy stunned a sleeping population and military personnel with a massive air attack on Pearl Harbor.

On that day, 350 Japanese aircraft attacked. The United States lost four battleships, 180 aircraft, 2,400 sailors. Japan lost 29 aircraft and 55 pilots.

Dr. Ken Kotani writes, “From a tactical point of view, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was one of the most brilliant operations in naval history” (The Pacific War Companion). Indeed it was. It would end U.S. reliance on battleships and launch an era of aircraft carrier power.

Visiting the updated $56 million Pearl Harbor Museum and uss Arizona memorial is an experience never to be forgotten. A few days ago, about a hundred of us made up of general public and Japanese school children solemnly boarded a boat to take us to the uss Arizona memorial. The officers in charge made a special point of recognizing two survivors who were with us on this day. They were Donald Armstrong of the uss Tennessee and Luke Conter of the uss Arizona. Mr. Conter, who survived the attack on the uss Arizona, told us of the horror of the attacks, especially for uss Nevada, Utah, California, Oklahoma and Arizona. He spoke of the screaming, the pain, the panic, and the bravery under fire as the majority of his crew mates died before his eyes.

The memorial is positioned directly over the sunken Arizona. You can see the wreckage, the rust, the still-leaking oil. The solemnity gives way to the silent screams of the thousands whose names adorn the wall of memory. The two survivors made the tour more meaningful as they shared their experiences with many in attendance.

Luke Conter mused on the past to his sons and those of us nearby: “Do you know, we spent six days diving on the sunken Arizona pulling mostly dead and very few living from the fiery, oily, bloody wreckage.”

Admiral Yamamoto had hoped that a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor would decimate the U.S. battleship fleet and break the nation’s morale. History shows the opposite happened. A sleeping giant was awakened.

Looking from the Arizona memorial, you see in the distance the uss Missouri, on which the Japanese unconditionally surrendered to U.S. supremacy. That’s the last time an enemy surrendered to the greatest single nation in history.

Oh, how times have changed.

Today, 69 years later, an air of weakness emanates from the once great superpower.

The results of a long list of wars and skirmishes—Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Rwanda, Somalia, and today Iraq and Afghanistan—all too readily demonstrate that the will to win complete victory by vanquishing the enemy is a phenomenon of America’s past. The pride of the once great superpower is now demonstrably diluted, divided and all but broken (Leviticus 26:19).

Madmen with nuclear ambitions and jihadist terrorists wave their fists with impunity at America, all the while declaring their hatred for the land that once lived up to its exalted claim to be “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

With the U.S. in hock to China and EU bankers, the dollar mocked by so-called allies, a national debt so huge that the nation is unable to sustain troop deployments in foreign theaters of conflict, the catchphrase of the day is no longer “victory”—it’s drawdown!

The Pearl Harbor survivors are a dying breed. Yet the bravery of such men as Armstrong and Conter is still a powerful reminder of the magnitude of the sacrifice that seven decades ago guaranteed such freedoms as Americans still enjoy to this day.

Pearl Harbor should have taught us to watch our back and to never again allow enemy nations to perceive us weak and lacking the will to fight.

Today we are left asking the question, would America react the same way as it did 69 years ago if an unprovoked, surprise attack struck its citizens and servicemen in an effort to destroy its military capability and weaken morale?

Well it happened on September 11 almost a decade ago, and despite all our vaunted, sophisticated technology, we still have not vanquished the real perpetrators, a mere handful of wicked men—just a rag-tag bunch compared to the massive hoards that sought to destroy our nation almost 70 years ago.

So, how many stopped to remember the seventh of December? The answer is too few, far too few. Then again, America has always been a forgetful nation—forgetful of the true source of its once massive blessings.

We shall yet rue having forgotten the powerful lessons of that fateful day, Dec. 7, 1941, a day on which a massive enemy attack broke the back of the uss Arizona and laid it to rest at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, there to remain a mute and silent witness to the last time that America truly answered the trumpet call to a battle to win ultimate victory over its enemy.

Study Shows U.S. and UK Education Worsening

Study Shows U.S. and UK Education Worsening

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The United States and the United Kingdom were solidly beaten by a host of countries in math, science and reading tests conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (oecd), the results of which were published December 7.

Asian nations regularly came top in an assessment of 470,000 15-year-olds in 65 different countries in 2009 under the oecd’s Program for International Student Assessment (pisa).

Out of the oecd countries, South Korea came top in reading and math, and third in science. Finland came second in reading and math, and took the top spot for science. However, when China (not an oecd nation) is included, and subdivided into economic regions, then Shanghai comes out on top, by far, in all three categories.

With China’s regions included, Finland (third), Canada (sixth), New Zealand (seventh) and Australia (ninth) are the only non-Asian nations to make the top 10 when the results from all three categories are averaged.

The UK’s ranking has plummeted since the pisa first began in 2000. This year it came 16th in science, 25th in reading and 28th in math (ranking includes non-oecd countries, and China’s regions). In 2000 it was fourth in science, seventh in reading and eighth in math.

The U.S. performed even worse, coming 23rd in science, 32nd in math and 17th in reading. Both nations remained above the oecd average for reading and science (though only barely, for the U.S.).

The important point is not that the U.S. and the UK did spectacularly badly—they didn’t; they ranked just above the middle. The point is, they did not do spectacularly well. The trend is worth noting. If the U.S. wants to remain the world’s only superpower, it will have to be the world’s best educator—otherwise new technologies will go to other nations, leaving the U.S. behind. This in fact is already happening.

This educational decline is not just found in 15-year-olds. A separate study earlier this year found that the American share of top universities is shrinking. America’s fall in the educational league tables forecasts its fall as a major power.

America the Precarious

America the Precarious

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The Fed’s secret loans reveal just how real sudden collapse could be.

Twenty-one thousand loans—$3.3 trillion worth: That is what it took in terms of hard currency for the Federal Reserve to stop the financial meltdown of the United States. Yet where has this huge amount of money gotten America? Is the system fixed? Or is the Fed’s latest disclosure actually evidence that the economy is far more precarious than anyone admits?

The Federal Reserve finally made available details concerning its massive Wall Street bailout, corporate bailout, and—as it turns out—foreign central bank bailout. Although everyone knew the Fed went to extremes to prop up the banking system during the tense days of 2008, few knew just how far it had actually gone.

Yet the significance is lost on far too many people.

“What’s the big deal? Nothing really, at this point,” writes Charlie Low, forum editor for St. Louis’s Washington University Student Life paper. The list of recipients is mostly what one would expect, he says. And the money has mostly been paid back and with some interest too.

It’s a non-story, he argues.

Unfortunately, Low’s understanding of the financial crisis is far too typical of the highly opinionated, but woefully ignorant American student.

Actually, the Fed’s disclosure is a big deal—a very big deal. That is why the Federal Reserve fought so hard for two years to keep it secret.

It paints a picture of an economy in danger of sudden collapse.

Much focus has been given to the scale of the bailouts. $3.3 trillion is a massive amount of money. Measuring at more than two times America’s budget deficit, it is incredibly significant in terms of the U.S. economy.

The fact that this money was created out of thin air seems to be missed by most people. But maybe that is fitting, since much of what the Fed traded that $3.3 trillion for appears to be vastly overpriced junk. $1.5 trillion worth of collateral came with the “ratings unavailable” designation. Only 1 percent of the pledged collateral was highly rated government treasuries.

It was also revealed that the Federal Reserve not only lent $600 billion to foreign central banks, but also to foreign auto makers like Toyota, and billions more to foreign private banks at very low interest rates (sometimes at 0.15 percent).

In other words, at the height of the crisis, the Fed was printing and lending money to anyone with a pulse, regardless of who they were and what collateral they pledged.

The Federal Reserve even lent cheap money to speculative hedge funds and pension plans—like the Major League Baseball Players Pension Plan—to “invest,” in an attempt to get money flowing through the economy again.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, one of the most underwater retirement plans in the country, was among the most enthusiastic takers of Fed money. It borrowed $5.14 billion to speculate with. It says it profited $175 million from the deal.

Under one of the Federal Reserve’s lending programs, it was revealed that the Feds cycled a mind-boggling $9 trillion in and out of the economy between the collapse of investment bank Bear Stearns in March 2008 through to January 2010, when the last loan was made.

To be fair, the Fed never had $9 trillion outstanding at any one time. Many of the loans were very short term and were paid back very quickly. For example, during one part of the crisis, British bank Barclays borrowed $14 billion on four separate occasions—basically rolling over the loan. In all likelihood, the bank only had $14 billion outstanding, but when the Fed released its data, it showed four different loans, which cumulatively totaled $56 billion for Barclays during this time period.

Through this program, Citigroup alone borrowed an astounding $2.2 trillion in multiple revolving transactions to stay afloat. Merrill Lynch borrowed $2.1 trillion across 226 loans. Bank of America borrowed $1.1 trillion in emergency money to avoid failure. It asked the Fed for credit a whopping 1,000 different times. Morgan Stanley took out 212 loans to stay in business. Even the venerable Goldman Sachs borrowed $620 billion across 84 loans.

Small banks too went to the Fed for money to keep them going. Bank of Oklahoma asked for money 16 times. MidFirst Bank took out emergency loans on 21 occasions.

More ominously, it wasn’t just the banks and failing hedge funds that the Fed propped up—it directly propped up many of the biggest, most famous names in corporate America.

Credit card companies, insurance companies, vehicle manufacturers all got loans. Some of this was known. But did you know that Caterpillar took government money? That Verizon Communications needed $1.5 billion? That Harley-Davidson received bailout money 33 times, for a total of $2.3 billion? General Electric Co. needed funding 12 times for a total of $16 billion?

That Big Mac hamburger you ate last year was made possible by the Federal Reserve. Yes, even McDonald’s borrowed money from the Fed.

Why did the Fed give loans to these companies? How is it that Harley-Davidson poses such a systemic risk to the economy that it gets special bailout funding?

All these companies borrow money each and every day. They need credit just to keep up business as usual. During the economic crisis surrounding Sept. 11, 2008, the debt markets froze. No one would lend money—at all. Banks were failing. The government was nationalizing trillion-dollar corporations. The whole system was balanced on a razor’s edge.

Just imagine what would have happened if Caterpillar, or Verizon—or worse yet, McDonald’s—had a failed debt auction. If MacDonald’s, one of America’s highest rated companies, couldn’t borrow money. Contagion could have gone national, even international. A massive domino effect might have swept the business world. The Fed had to step in to provide the money—or it risked total shutdown of corporate America.

That is how addicted to debt America is. It cannot function without daily—hourly—debt injections. Stop the debt and the system goes into cardiac arrest. Twenty-one thousand times the Fed had to jump-start the system.

The massiveness of the Federal Reserve’s bailouts, the frequency, and the recipients of the bailouts all point to a system far more precarious than most dare to imagine.

And most startling of all, nobody knows if the bailouts will work next time.

The Fed has thrown a lot of money at the problem—and America doesn’t really look too different from 2008. In fact, it looks a lot worse: slower growth, much higher unemployment, massive government budget deficits, and even higher debt.

In the process, all this money-printing from the Fed, coupled with massive government borrowing and spending (with no talk of austerity), is discrediting and devaluing the dollar.

Guess who the Federal Reserve is bailing out now?

In November, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke announced it would print up another $600 billion to purchase government treasuries—in effect bailing out the Federal government. Over the weekend, during a 60 Minutes interview, he said that even more “quantitative easing” might be needed.

See, the bailouts never end. They don’t fix anything. But the debts continue to grow. And the whole system gets evermore precarious.

Who is going to bail out the Federal Reserve?

The next chapter in the U.S. financial crisis

“Some of the same people who warned of the looming subprime crisis two years ago are ringing alarm bells again,” the New York Timesreported on Saturday. “Their message: Not just small towns or dying Rust Belt cities, but also large states like Illinois and California are increasingly at risk.”

Despite claims by some analysts that the national economy is recovering, continually burgeoning state debt would indicate that municipal bankruptcy is becoming more and more likely.

Next year is predicted to get worse, but the danger doesn’t end there. “Their fear is that even when the economy recovers, the shortfalls will not disappear, because many state and local governments have so much debt—several trillion dollars’ worth, with much of it off the books and largely hidden from view—that it could overwhelm them in the next few years.” The Times continues:

Illinois is not the only state behind on its bills. Many states, including New York, have delayed payments to vendors and local governments because they had too little cash on hand to make them. California paid vendors with ious last year. A handful of other states, worried about their cash flow, delayed paying tax refunds last spring.

Meanwhile, Arizona has sold off its state buildings for millions of dollars upfront, but the cost of leasing the buildings back over the next 20 years will result in $400 million more in interest in the long run. States like New York and New Jersey are shortchanging their pension funds, while Idaho and other states are cutting back on state aid programs, firemen and police forces.

“[S]ome states are essentially borrowing to pay their operating costs, adding new debts that are not always clearly disclosed,” the Times continues. “It is these growing hidden debts that make many analysts nervous. States and municipalities currently have around $2.8 trillion worth of outstanding bonds, but that number is dwarfed by the debts that many are carrying off their books.”

Even if complete default is unlikely, a more probable danger is the collapse of interest by investors willing to finance their debt: “That would force a crisis, since states cannot operate if they cannot borrow. Such a crisis could then spread to healthier states, making it more expensive for them to borrow, if Europe is an example.”

Despite this worrisome trend, “credit ratings of a number of local governments have improved this year, not because their finances have strengthened somewhat, but because the ratings agencies have changed the way they analyze governments,” notes the Times (emphasis ours). One reason credit agencies still rate states as lower-risk investments is due to the belief that the federal government would be even more likely to bail out faltering states than bankrupt corporations.

The problem is, continues the Times, these are the same rating agencies that “also dismissed the possibility that a subprime crisis was brewing.”

“There are eerie similarities between the subprime debt crisis and the looming municipal debt woes,” the article continues. Among these are the fact that both municipal bonds and the housing market were once considered sure things, and that much of the actual debt of states and cities remains off the books and hidden, similar to the subprime debt crisis.

The result is that “states and many cities still carry good ratings, and those issuing warnings are dismissed as alarmists ….”

While some continue to bury their heads in the sand, an ever increasing number of analysts are becoming more alarmed at the nation’s seemingly unsolvable financial crisis—something the Trumpet has warned about for years.

“Most financial crises happen in unpredictable ways, and they hit you when you’re not looking,” said former Under Secretary of the Treasury Jerome H. Powell. “This one isn’t like that. You can see it coming. It would be sinful not to do something about this while there’s a chance.”

Said Felix Rohatyn, one of those instrumental in saving New York City from bankruptcy in the ’70s: “It seems to me that crying wolf is probably a good thing to do at this point.”

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