Friday, April 29, 2011

Take a kid hunting

By Bob Confer

Statistics show that the outdoors sports aren’t recruiting youth like they used to. For every 100 hunters lost to old age and disinterest in the hobby only 69 hunters take their place. It’s a far cry from the good old days when hunting was a family affair passed on from generation to generation and we were 100 for 100.

What accounts for this decline? For starters, it’s the ongoing exodus from tradition. America was long a nation of hunters. It was a shared experience, a way for fathers and sons to bond, commune with nature and put food on the table. Nowadays that connection seems almost quaint, even outdated.

Other catalysts for the decline are the unhealthy lifestyle choices of modern youth. These sedentary souls seem to prefer locking themselves indoors, hunting one another in the virtual world rather than hunting a beast in the real world. They also prefer processed foods to the bounty that nature has afforded us.

It’s up to adult hunters to change all that. We need to get these kids off their duffs and into the woods.

Harkening back to tradition, getting kids indoctrinated to hunting is a great way to build a rapport with them. Rarely do today’s parents get to spend true quality time with their children. Spend a weekend in the woods, though, and you have their attention and they yours. Many of my best times as a boy were spent camping and hunting in Allegany County with my folks. At an age when a lot of kids looked at their parents as foils, I looked at mine as my best friends. I still do, thanks to the healthy relationships fostered back then - and today – by putting game in the freezer.

There’s no better time to start than now: The spring turkey hunt is upon us in New York State. That season allows you to expose youth to the wiliest and most delicious of wild game. The large bird is exciting to hunt. The slightest movement is visible to turkeys, even 70 yards away, and can send the bird flying. That drama - the fear that a twitch can ruin a hunt - will send anyone’s heart racing. To bring him in, you need to be an expert caller, and there’s nothing more enjoyable in all of hunting then calling in an aggressive gobbler from hundreds of yards away. Any youngster or teen who gets to experience your hunt as an observer, maybe even as a cameraman, will find it exhilarating and will undoubtedly want to get his or her license as soon as possible (remember, unlicensed youth cannot carry a weapon or call your turkeys).

It’s the best time to be in the woods, too. May is the most beautiful month in the Empire State as the forests and fields awaken from their winter slumber and, over the course of a few weeks, the trees go from barren to lush green, with the forest floor seeing a wide variety of wildflowers and the canopy being overcome with wildlife as migrating and resident birds of all sorts sing their songs, at times making the woods almost deafening. The spring hunt ends at noon daily, so that gives you the afternoon to do any number of outdoor activities like hiking, exploring or trout fishing. It’s rare that any child - let alone any adult - is left unimpressed by the May wilds, the best that Mother Nature has to offer.

So, if you’re looking for a way to get your kids more physically active, more in tune with the natural world, and interested in sharing time with you, take them hunting this spring, just as your dad may have with you or your grandfather might have with him. It’s time well spent.

Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. E-mail him at

This column originally ran in the 02 May 2011 Greater Niagara Newspapers

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Obama Administration supports al-Qaeda

By Confer

Al-Qaeda left an indelible mark on modern America. By orchestrating the terror attacks on September 11, 2001 in which they - in the course of killing thousands while attempting, even succeeding, to topple some of our most iconic structures - changed the way of life in America by forcing our government’s hand in taking away the rights to freedom and privacy that we once swore were ours forever.

One on front in our ongoing global wars and occupations, the US government and its military chose to make amends for the loss of innocent civilians by fighting al-Qaeda to the death. The desire to extinguish the terror network is so strong that we’re willing to invest 500 American lives and 65 billion American dollars every year on Afghan soil.

Yet, on another front – our newest one in Libya – the Obama Administration insists on counting al-Qaeda amongst our allies. NATO commander James Stavridis recently let slip that many of the Libyan rebels are members of – or align themselves with - al-Qaeda. That jibes with a clandestine West Point study of a 700 foreigners who, under the auspices of al-Qaeda, came to Iraq in 2006 and 2007 to kill American soldiers. One-fifth of them were Libyans. They and their brethren now fight alongside (at least temporarily) American’s secret forces in Libya. One of the rebel leaders, Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, openly admits the same to the foreign press. He should know; after all, he recruited and led raids against US forces in Iraq.

The cost to help al-Qaeda, in our morbid attempt to put them in power, has been phenomenal. Since initiating the No-Fly Zone a month ago by bombing Libya’s air defenses, we’ve dropped shells on Tripoli and Misrata while patrolling the air. In the first 2 weeks alone of doing so, the Pentagon had spent $608 million, far in excess of the initial price tag of $40 million per month. The Air Force’s Libyan efforts by themselves cost $4 million per day. All those costs ignore the not-so-secret activities of CIA operatives who are now leading the Libyan rebels and supplying them with arms.

Sure, our investment has not been a cheap one financially. But this is not just about money. No, this issue is more about the emotional and philosophical cost, one that has the potential to create incalculable damage on the confidence, trust and maybe even lives of our people and our Armed Forces.

Aiding and abetting al-Qaeda is a slap to the face to the thousands of Americans who lost loved ones on September 11th or the war that followed. How can Obama look the American people in the eye and justify helping the very people who sent nearly 3,000 to the most horrific of deaths in plane crashes and collapsed buildings?

It’s a spit into the faces of the fine men and women of our military, 1,500 of whom gave their lives while another 12,000 gave of limb and mind in Afghanistan in hopes of putting an end to the terrorists’ plans for destruction of the Western World. How can the Commander-in-Chief seriously reassure the 100,000 troops there (and their families at home) that it’s somehow worthwhile to defend the organization that killed their friends and brothers? How can Obama defend giving weapons to al-Qaeda, which will undoubtedly be used to kill American soldiers elsewhere?

This insanity speaks volumes about the problem with messing in other nation’s affairs. What do we hope to accomplish by intervening in the internal structure of Libya? Obama said we couldn’t sit by and watch people be oppressed and killed by Gaddafi and his thugs. If that was the case, we surely would have saved the day in Sudan where 500,000 people were the victims of genocide while 2.7 million more were displaced. We didn’t. Obviously, there’s some sort of strategic or economic importance in Libya (probably the latter). When that’s the case, our country is quite willing to sell out its values and morality, even to the most repugnant form of humanity, one that has killed not only thousands Americans, but tens of thousands of Middle Easterners and Europeans through ongoing acts of terrorism.

In one fell swoop our mortal enemies have “changed” into our very best friends, because, somehow, it’s convenient for the Administration and America’s goals (whatever they may be). Is that the “change” that so many Americans voted for in 2008? I certainly hope not.

Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. E-mail him at

This column originally ran in the 25 April 2011 Greater Niagara Newspapers

Friday, April 15, 2011

Long term care, long term burden

Long term care, long term burden
By Bob Confer

Sometime very soon the Department of Health and Human Services will iron out details of the CLASS Act and submit information to employers in preparation for enrolling their employees into the voluntary program in 2012. CLASS (Community Living Assistance Services and Supports) is similar to private long-term care insurance that helps to cover the costs of professional care when one becomes frail or disabled. It can be applied to home, respite, hospice, or nursing home functions. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the enrollees will pay an average monthly premium of $123 for a period of only 5 years. The benefits will equate to $50 to $75 per day.

Because of its remote similarity to private long-term care insurance, CLASS is identified as insurance by the federal government. It is, however, anything but. True insurance requires the building of an investment portfolio that uses the premiums collected from insured parties. Those funds are put into the markets to ensure growth, which, when combined with incoming premiums, will allow the insurance company to meet its current and future benefit outlays. True insurance also survives through underwriting, a method by which insurers analyze the risks associated with certain people and activities and adjust the premiums accordingly.

CLASS doesn’t fit the bill with either of these criteria. For starters, there is no investment portfolio. It’s eerily similar to another Ponzi scheme - Social Security — which was once identified as insurance, too. Under Social Security, current payees fully subsidize the benefits of current recipients. There is not a collective investment fund that has been watching its income grow since the program’s inception in 1935. Instead, what was taken in was put into a “trust fund”, which in turn was emptied out by government expenditures. All that remains is government bonds —IOUs issued to the government by the government.

Structured in that same way, CLASS will have its own trust fund and it won’t take long for revenues to be outstripped by expenses. The average user will put only $7,380 into the trust fund. Consider what that user will take out of it: At $75 of benefits per day, that’s $27,375 in expenses per year, nearly 4 times what the user put into it. That’s just for 1 year of use. Now, imagine if the user lingers in long-term care for 10 years ($273,750) or 20 years ($547,500). It doesn’t take a professional accountant to see that it’s a financially dangerous endeavor.

Private insurance has a few hedges against such a scenario. Beyond investing, there’s the aforementioned underwriting. Those who are high risk (having a pre-existing condition or enrolling late in life) pay a higher premium. In the private sector the annual premiums vary greatly, from just under $900 for those under 40 years of age to more than $3,000 for those over 70. Further adjustments are made for risky lifestyles and ailments. That’s not so with CLASS, where everyone is treated equally while paying equally.

Private insurers also protect themselves (and their customers) by limiting the years of benefits. Depending on the amount and duration of premium payments, benefits are typically available for 5 or 10 years, with caps set on lifetime benefits.

Without such protections, the government will be forced to do one (or all) of three things in order to keep CLASS afloat: raise tax revenues, borrow money, or work with the Federal Reserve to increase the money supply to the tune of tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars per year.

For a nation already taxed too much to support unconstitutional healthcare programs such as Medicaid (which costs $333.2 billion/year) and Medicare (with unfunded obligations of $37.8 trillion), another bureaucracy is not the remedy for what ails us. The government should stay out of long-term care. It is totally incapable of doing what plenty of private-sector companies can and are doing to handle such business — meeting the needs of the people in a prudent and affordable fashion.

Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. E-mail him at

This column originally ran in the 18 April 2011 Greater Niagara Newspapers

Friday, April 8, 2011

The reality of domestic violence

By Bob Confer

The problem with reality TV is that it has mutated our sense of reality. That form of so-called entertainment has us finding enjoyment in other people’s misery; ratings are good if the principals have significant tension between them. This sickness started 22 years ago when “Cops” hit the airwaves. That show emphasizes the short-term causes and effects of broken relationships and, therefore, broken homes. Like train wrecks, we just can’t seem to take our eyes (and the producers can’t take their cameras) off of them and we revel in the scale of their destruction. You’d be hard pressed to find an American who hasn’t laughed at the poor souls, especially when they tell the policemen why the situation escalated to the point that it did.

Maybe we find humor in it because we think that we’re protected, that domestic violence (in either the verbal or physical form) won’t happen in our neighborhood or homes. We’re only kidding ourselves because chances are it has happened or will happen in one or both of those environments. Domestic violence is more common than you think. And, it’s never funny.

Listen to a police scanner (“reality radio”) on any given evening and the weekends. It seems that the calls for domestic situations are endless. Our officers have to be peacekeepers in homes as much as on the streets. They are called to calm altercations playing themselves out before young children, keep women from verbally abusing their men, or prevent husbands from following through on their threats to their wives. On a recent weekend one fellow threatened to put a bullet in his girlfriend’s head while another chased his around a woodlot with a baseball bat.

Those last two police calls are extreme circumstances, but the other situations are not. They’re common. According to 2009 data provided by the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services, all police departments within Niagara County reported 1,488 instances of domestic violence, among them 1,203 cases of simple assault and 42 sexual offenses against a family member, 27 of which were not the intimate partner. Among the cases was a fatal stabbing of a Gasport man by his girlfriend on Christmas morning. That one instance proves that domestic violence knows no sex (men can be victims, too), boundaries (it’s just not an urban issue), limitations (assault can escalate to murder) or rest (even the holiest of days is not off limits).

Now mind you, those are just the cases recorded as actual arrests. There were thousands of 911 calls and tips for domestic arguments and other forms of verbal abuse (that victims will say is just as painful as hitting). In 2009, the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office alone responded to 3,600 such calls. There were thousands more covered by the city police in Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda, and Lockport. And, remember, most victims and witnesses remain silent; there are tens of thousands of situations that go unreported.

Does any of that seem even remotely funny like it may have on the television? Absolutely not. It’s on the other end of the emotional spectrum: It’s sad. If you’re human, you can’t help but feel for those affected by such monstrosities, especially the kids raised in such unloving homes. The vitality and morality of a society can be measured by the strength of the family unit and how it treats its children. You cannot help but wonder where we as a people are going if we allow such abuses to widely occur or broken homes to fester, because, more often than not, a child raised in such misery repeats the same later in his or her adult life. It’s a never-ending cycle of hate in environments that should create and inspire love and respect.

So, the next time you find yourself laughing aloud at the conflict you see on TV, stop and think about it. Count yourself lucky that it’s not a reflection of your life or that of people close to you. Hopefully it’s not, but if it is, ponder what you, your family and friends can do to change Tomorrow.

Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. E-mail him at

This column originally ran in the 11 April 2011 Greater Niagara Newspapers

Friday, April 1, 2011


By Bob Confer

With the recent passing of Geraldine Ferraro the press, the Democratic Party, and Americans in general abused history with their remembrance of her life. People everywhere celebrated her role in the 1984 presidential campaign and most said that she was the first woman to appear on a presidential ticket.

Not to belittle her accomplishments, but she was not the first. To properly identify what Ferraro accomplished, one must say she was the first woman to appear on a presidential ticket of a major political party. In terms of being the first woman on a presidential ticket from any party (large or small), she was bested by someone who was born and raised right here in Niagara County: Belva Lockwood.

Lockwood ran for the office of the President (not just Vice-President) exactly one century before Ferraro’s feat. She repeated that task in 1888, both times under the National Equal Rights Party. In 1884 she received 4,100 votes, a fraction of those received by the winner Grover Cleveland – ironically, another candidate with a solid Western New York background – who garnered 4.87 million votes.

Limited numbers notwithstanding, Lockwood’s performance far rivals that of Ferraro. When Ferraro was Walter Mondale’s running mate women had a long history of holding federal office dating back to 1917 in the House (when Jeanette Rankin was elected) and 1932 in the Senate (when Hattie Caraway was elected). But, when Lockwood ran, women were looked at as second-class citizens; they couldn’t even vote. Back then the common sentiment was that they belonged in the home and shouldn’t participate in more manly pursuits like governance and law. The majority of the “gentlemanly” press painted her as a joke when she campaigned, just as they did any other woman who counted herself as a suffragist, one who fought for women’s voting rights.

Lockwood was incredibly instrumental in changing those disgusting ways in which we viewed and treated women in the public arena. She overcame the negative coverage and showed that she was up to the task of debating and developing a platform, a 15-position masterpiece that was arguably more substantial than that of Cleveland or his Republican foe, James Blaine. Had women possessed the right to vote, she would have been a formidable opponent and definitely a game changer (The 1884 election was close: Cleveland had 48.5% of the vote while Blaine had 48.2%).

Outside of politics, she was just as impressive. As a teacher, she developed new curriculum in her schools and expanded the knowledge base afforded young women, exposing them to studies that only men once took. She also became one of the first female lawyers to practice in the US and ultimately the first one allowed to practice before the US Supreme Court. She was a successful lawyer at that; she fought the case of the Eastern Cherokee Indians against the government, winning them a settlement of $5 million (which in today’s dollars is $97 million). Somehow, she managed all this while running a boarding house and tirelessly fighting for women’s rights.

It’s high time Lockwood got her due. She was an entirely self-made woman; her achievements were not the result of privilege. Lockwood empowered herself and she gave women the hope that they could do the same. In her time she ranked with Susan B. Anthony (who was immortalized on a dollar coin) as the most powerful and well-known women in the country. Despite that, we seem to have forgotten who she was and what she did, as made evident by the accolades thrown upon Ferraro. Nationally, primary schools look at her as nothing more than a footnote, if she’s even mentioned at all.

It’s really disappointing to find that some of the local school districts are guilty of the same. You would certainly think that someone of her historical importance who was born in Royalton and lived and worked in the Lockport area until her early 30s would get great coverage in local history classes. That begs the question: If she’s not an honest-to-goodness local – and national - hero(ine), then just who is?

Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. E-mail him at

This column originally ran in the 04 April 2011 Greater Niagara Newspapers