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Special Update #9 - The Terrorists Among Us

Immediately after the attacks of September 11th, the government told us there might be apprx. 100 more terrorists inside the US. A few days later, it was 200, then perhaps as many as 500. Later on, the number was upped to 1,000-1,500. By that point, everyone figured out that the government simply doesn't know.

One of the most troubling things about the tragedy that struck America on 911 is the fact that some of the alleged hijackers were living what seemed to be VERY NORMAL lives here in the US - in some cases for several years before being called into action on 911. They had cars, jobs, families in some cases, and their neighbors never suspected anything.

There is a great debate going on behind the scenes focused on what, if anything, to do about the millions of Muslims living in the US. While the exact number is impossible to know, I have seen estimates that range from 4-5 million to 8-10 million Muslims who are living in the US. Whatever their number, virtually all of these people believe in Islam.

Most of these Muslims, I think it is safe to presume, are peaceful people who are probably thankful for the opportunity to live, work and practice their religion in the US. There is, however, a significant faction of the Muslim community which is most often referred to as "militant Islamists."

These people believe in a brand of Islam which (at least as they interpret it) calls for forced conversions, and this, they believe, provides for the defeat of the US and the West. Most of the academics and writers refer to this radical brand of Islam, which includes both the religion and the conquest against the West, as "ISLAMISM."

All of those who subscribe to Islamism want to see Islam spread throughout the world. Within this group, there are factions and sub-groups ranging from those who want the spread to occur peacefully, even if that means many years, to those who are willing to commit violent acts and terrorism.

Shortly after 911 President Bush told the nation, "There are millions of good Americans who practice the Muslim faith who love their country as much as I love the country, who salute the flag as strongly as I salute the flag." And we heard from commentators far and wide that we should not "profile" Middle Easterners among us. I agree with that.

However, we would be foolish not to bear in mind that many of these Muslims living in our country are committed to our downfall and the spread of Islam across this land. This includes several groups which have been trotted before the American people and PRAISED in recent years and in recent weeks.

For example, in June 1991, SIRAJ WAHAJ, a black convert to Islam and the recipient of some of the American Muslim community's highest honors, had the privilege of becoming the first Muslim to deliver the daily prayer in the U.S. House of Representatives. On that occasion he recited from the Qur'an and appealed to the Almighty to guide American leaders "and grant them righteousness and wisdom."

A little over a year later, addressing an audience of New Jersey Muslims, the same Wahaj articulated a rather different vision from his mild and moderate invocation in the House. If only Muslims were more clever politically, he told his New Jersey listeners, they could take over the United States and replace its constitutional government with a caliphate. "If we were united and strong, we'd elect our own emir [leader] and give allegiance to him. Take my word, if 6-8 million Muslims unite in America, the country will come to us."

There are many different groups and associations within the Muslim community and especially within the militant Islamist faction. Many of these groups - including some of those President Bush met with just after 911 - speak supportively of the US in public, but call for its demise in private.

It would seem to me that if the government is serious about identifying the terrorists and would-be terrorists ("sleepers") in the US, it would be investigating some of the radical Islamic groups that are dedicated to the defeat of the US. If I can find out who they are, surely the government can.

Maybe it is, and we just don't know about it. In any event, it is discouraging to see the president meet with groups who are known to include such people.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT -

FIRST, EDUCATE YOURSELF

While the discussions about this problem are occurring largely behind the scenes, I believe this will be one of the most critical issues facing America in the years ahead. If there are more terrorist attacks, I guarantee it!

I have included links to 2 of the best articles I have seen on this subject. YOU NEED TO READ THEM. They are written by Daniel Pipes for the New York Post. Let me warn you, they are fairly lengthy articles, especially if you check out the many footnotes. If you want, you can go back and read Pipes' earlier pieces on the subject as well.

The issue of what to do about these radicals in our midst is very complicated. As noted above, we don't know who they are or where they are. The seemingly normal Muslim down the street could be a sleeper just waiting to get the call to commit violence, as was apparently the case with some of the hijackers. . . Or it could be a patriotic American who loves this country just as much as you or I do.

I'll tell you right up front, I DON'T KNOW WHAT WE SHOULD DO. There are some easy things like halting emigration and visas from countries that are known to harbor terrorists, and deporting any persons living in the US who are found to be terrorists or have ties to terrorists. Those are the easy things.

Identifying those radical Islamists who are committed to the downfall of our government, and our freedom of religion, will be much harder and will carry a much great risk that the civil liberties of innocent, patriotic muslims could be harmed.

Get up to speed on this. Read the first 2 articles below in the order they appear. If there are more terrorist attacks, this issue is going to BLAZE TO THE FRONT PAGE.

** If we have clients or readers who are Muslims or are of the Islamic faith, I would welcome your thoughts on this issue.

IRONIES OF THE WAR

Knowing that Americans want results, the media would have us believe the war in Afghanistan is going poorly. Yet polls show the American people are extremely supportive of the military effort and believe the war is going according to plan.

But what we must all understand is, the US is doing exactly what bin Laden and Al Qaeda wanted us to do. They struck America precisely to get us to attack. Further, they hope we will attack multiple Islamic countries, so as to cause more nations to rise up against the US, including perhaps even Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Another irony is that Pakistan, while acting as our ally, does NOT want to see the Taliban removed from power. They specifically do NOT want to see the Northern Alliance take control of Afghanistan. The US is in a tough spot, which is reportedly why Defense Secretary Rumsfeld went to the region last week. Assuming we gain control of Afghanistan, it will be very difficult for us to install a new government that is acceptable to both Pakistan and the Northern Alliance.

Finally, the media drones on about how the war must be won before winter sets in. First of all, the war does not have to come to an end just because it is winter. Second, it will very likely be next spring before a major ground offensive is begun.

You can read more about the ground war in the latest analyses from STRATFOR below.

THE STIMULUS QUANDARY -

WHAT SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT TO DO?

In the face of an ailing economy, President Bush proposed a $75 billion stimulus package on Oct. 4th. Among other things, the bill called for extended unemployment benefits, accelerated tax breaks for those in the 28% bracket, and a tax rebate for low-income workers who did not receive one the first time. The most controversial aspect of the stimulus package is the repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax (AMT) and accelerated depreciation of capital investments.

The version passed by the House totaled $100 billion, due to even more generous tax rebates and unemployment benefits in a compromise with House Democrats.

The bill is currently stalled in the Senate, where the AMT repeal is meeting stiff opposition. This provision would refund $25 billion to 17,500 corporations, as a means to free up capital that could be used for investment, hiring, and stock dividends. Of course there is no guarantee that corporations will use this money for those purposes. In fact it is much more likely that they will pay down debt, which does zero in terms of economic stimulus.

It is no surprise that the Democrats are very troubled by this. The Senate Finance Committee began to consider, on Tuesday, a $70 billion version that more evenly divides the relief between individuals and businesses, with additional money for the jobless. The Democrats are determined to expand the health insurance and unemployment benefits offered by the package. However, as of today (11/8) it looks as though the AMT provision will pass the Senate.

The Senate Republicans forced the bill out of committee by attaching numerous unrelated 'riders' to it, about 70 in all. This forces the bill to the floor where the items will be considered one at a time. In this way the GOP hopes to keep the AMT cuts and restrain new spending.

The parts of the original package that the Democrats want to expand are health insurance supports and immediate cash rebates to the working poor. Now, a "cash in your pocket" plan sounds good, but it will do little to simulate the economy. We have done this already this year on a much larger scale with the previous tax rebates, and it had little or no effect on the economy. Most people saved the tax rebate money.

What is essential for any stimulus plan to work is to raise the return on economic activity, work, saving, and investment. This is why economists favor tax reduction over rebates as a means of stimulus. What the current package lacks are any "supply side" type tax cuts. For any sustained economic recovery, tax cuts are key.

Beyond the political wrangling, many have wondered if we really need a stimulus package of any kind. Will this package, or any package for that matter, actually spur the economy out of recession? Especially with consumers still worried about the possibility of additional terrorist attacks. If consumers don't spend, corporations won't spend either.

Nevertheless, it seems inevitable that a stimulus package of $70-$100 billion is going to pass, in addition to the $40 billion already appropriated for emergency needs. I entitled this section "WHAT SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT DO?" Some argue that the government should do nothing, and simply allow the market forces to work, while others fear the creation of new entitlement programs and the associated expansion of government. The later seems to be in the offing, unfortunately, with what are effectively large government subsidies for health care and unemployment.

As noted above, there are plenty of seemingly intelligent people who believe the government should NOT be doing this. One of my libertarian friends, for example, sent me the following missive:

"The whole concept of 'economic stimulus' is nonsense! Any money the government pumps into the economy must first be taken out of the economy, either via taxes or borrowing. So at best all they can do is to (inefficiently and temporarily) redistribute capital from one sector to another."

"The main effect of these [stimulus] proposals is psychological. People want the government to 'do something' to fix the economy and believe that it actually has such power. So for a while it may appear to have the desired result. Then when it stops working, they will demand some other kind of help. We should simply let the free market, what's left of it, work even if that means a recession."

"Unlike the government, the market is not compassionate. When industries and companies become inefficient and unable to compete, they need to die off. Some people get hurt in the process. To avoid this the government props them up, and we end up with large parts of the economy consuming resources and producing nothing. It would be far better to let them die and get it over with."

"There are no magic wands, and in the end no sure fire answer. In reality the best thing to do is to do nothing, allowing market forces to work. However, this is not politically expedient, as Bush 41 [Bush Senior] discovered."

Spoken like a true libertarian! I am not a libertarian. I am a fiscal conservative. In most cases, I do not agree with increasing government spending to spur the economy or bail out failing industries or companies. I opposed, for example, the bailout of Chrysler a number of years ago. However, I have a hard time opposing the government coming to the aid of the airlines in the wake of 911.

I hear a lot of people saying the airlines should have been allowed to go out of business after 911, even though it was an unthinkable attack on America by terrorists - using airliners as missiles - that grounded all the airlines and, even worse, scared Americans from flying at all.

Had American, United, Delta, Continental and other air carriers been allowed to go out of business, what would America look like today? Can you say, DEPRESSION?

Of course, the problem with bailing out one industry, however justified, is that everyone now has their hand out. And the spigot is open. The problem is, as noted above, that the latest stimulus package contains TOO MUCH new spending and programs and TOO LITTLE in supply-side tax cuts.

I hate to conclude on a negative note, but we have to consider what will happen if there is another disastrous terrorist attack. It won't matter if the current stimulus package is $100 billion or $200 billion or even more. If we are attacked again in a major way, consumers will be shell-shocked! The economy will go into another dive.

Our politicians appear hell-bent on passing a large new stimulus package, even though they know it may not spur the economy much. They are more concerned about getting re-elected than about the economy.

My thought is, perhaps we should forego this stimulus package and SAVE THE MONEY. If there are more terrorist attacks, God forbid, WE MAY NEED IT!

I have included an article from STRATFOR on this subject below.

THE ECONOMY & THE MARKETS -

WILL THERE BE MORE ATTACKS?

Since my last Update, we've seen more bad economic news. Consumer confidence in October fell to the lowest level since 1994. Unemployment rose to 5.4% in October. And consumer spending fell by a whopping 1.3% in September.

The Bank Credit Analyst turned somewhat more negative in its latest economic assessment. Earlier they forecast that the recession would probably bottom in the 1Q of next year. Now they say it could be mid-year before it bottoms.

Still they believe the recession will end next year, and that the economic upturn will continue for several more years at least, UNLESS there are more terrorist attacks.

The major stock markets have all posted new highs above their pre-911 levels. The latest move up was aided in no small way by the Fed cutting interest rates to the lowest levels in 40 years. The Fed funds rate is now at 2% and may still go lower.

The Bank Credit Analyst believes the stock markets have seen their lows, UNLESS there are more terrorist attacks. They continued to advise below-average holdings of stocks and mutual funds, simply due to the uncertainty of more terrorist attacks. The editors lamented that they fear they will miss out on a further advance in the equity markets.

A lot of investors feel the same way. They don't want to go back in the market because they fear more terrorist attacks. It's a sad fact, but a lot in America and the world now depends on whether of not there will be more terrorist attacks. As I stated in my very first Special Update, the world will never be the same.

CLINTON JUST WILL NOT SHUT UP!

I was done with this Special Update, and it contained not a single mention of the word CLINTON (yeah!). I had only to wait while a couple of my staffers proofed it, and then it would be time to hit the SEND button. While they proofed, I stepped out to get a sandwich for lunch. As the radio came on, a caller on Rush's show was wailing about the "treasonous" remarks Bill Clinton made last night to 1,000 students at Georgetown University. The next several callers wailed on as well. I had not heard anything about Clinton's speech. Here are just some of his remarks.

On the subject of the recent terrorist attacks, Clinton said America is "paying a price today for its past of slavery and for looking the other way when a significant number of native Americans were dispossessed and killed."

"This country once looked the other way when a significant number of native Americans were dispossessed and killed to get their land or their mineral rights or because they were thought of as less than fully human."

"Here in the United States, we were founded as a nation that practiced slavery, and slaves quite frequently were killed even though they were innocent."

"And we are still paying a price today."

"We've got to defeat people who think they can find their redemption in our destruction. And then we have to be smart enough to get rid of our arrogant self-righteousness so that we don't claim for ourselves things we deny for others."

"This battle fundamentally is about what you think about the nature of truth."

NOW ISN'T THAT SPECIAL??

It is obvious that Bill Clinton is NOT going to go away. He is NOT going to honor the long-held tradition of not criticizing his successor or the government in general.

You can read the article in the links below.

Wishing you well,

SPECIAL ARTICLES

Daniel Pipes -- Militant Islam In America

http://www.danielpipes.org/articles/article.php?id=77

Daniel Pipes -- Fighting Militant Islam Without Bias

http://www.city-journal.org/html/11_4_fighting_militant.html

US & Taliban Play First Card - Ground War Strategies, Part One

http://www.stratfor.com/home/0111052100.htm

The Northern Alliance Offensive -- Not Easy

http://www.stratfor.com/home/0111072355.htm

Fiscal Stimulus May Harm US in Long-run

http://www.stratfor.com/home/0111022300.htm

Bill Clinton on Why We Have Been Attacked

http://www.washtimes.com/national/20011108-470100.htm

OTHER ARTICLES

In the Mid-East it Takes a Stick.

http://www.nypost.com/postopinion/editorial/33754.htm

Saddam is Center of Terror Networks.

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,248-2001381257,00.html

If you haven't seen this, be sure to read - China Celebrates Terrorist Attacks on America

http://64.29.200.227/showinside.shtml?a=2001/11/5/151210


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Forecasts & Trends E-Letter is published by Halbert Wealth Management, Inc. Gary D. Halbert is the president and CEO of Halbert Wealth Management, Inc. and is the editor of this publication. Information contained herein is taken from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed as to its accuracy. Opinions and recommendations herein generally reflect the judgement of Gary D. Halbert (or another named author) and may change at any time without written notice. Market opinions contained herein are intended as general observations and are not intended as specific investment advice. Readers are urged to check with their investment counselors before making any investment decisions. This electronic newsletter does not constitute an offer of sale of any securities. Gary D. Halbert, Halbert Wealth Management, Inc., and its affiliated companies, its officers, directors and/or employees may or may not have investments in markets or programs mentioned herein. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future results. Reprinting for family or friends is allowed with proper credit. However, republishing (written or electronically) in its entirety or through the use of extensive quotes is prohibited without prior written consent.

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