Thursday, May 26, 2011

More than a long weekend

By Bob Confer

Americans everywhere are enjoying this long weekend, an extended respite from the daily grind of work or school. It’s a joyous occasion, the unofficial start to summer.

That enjoyment of life and the rare chance to relax too often mask the real meaning of the Memorial Day holiday, one that recognizes the men and women who gave their lives so that we – and others around the world – might savor these weekends shared with family and friends. It’s vitally important that each and every one of us take some time today to honor those who fell in battle. You need not partake in a parade or attend a solemn service but you should, in your own way, quietly and genuinely reflect upon and appreciate the accomplishments and lives of our fine militaries of wars past and present.

Since the start of the Revolutionary War, 1.344 million people have paid the price for American goals. To put that into perspective, that’s slightly more than the population of the entire Western New York region. So, imagine all of the homes and streets being completely devoid of people from Niagara Falls to Jamestown and all points in between and near. That haunting visual should give you a feel for the scale of sacrifice.

It should also give you ample reason to set aside some time to appreciate the meaning of those sacrifices. Those soldiers, sailors and airmen saw and experienced horrors that very few of us ever will, and they gave their lives so that others may live, for the creation and preservation of human rights here and abroad, and for the furthering of our national interests.

America, the greatest and freest nation ever conceived, would never have existed had men not fought to the death against British tyranny.

She would never have remained intact, nor would 3.5 million blacks have been freed from slavery, had the North not found it morally necessary to preserve our nation or better the human existence.

The whole modern world would have been torn asunder and many millions more innocent lives taken by evil, had we not entered the two World Wars which cost of a half-million American lives.

Communism would have gained immeasurable might and influence had we not waged a proxy war against its principle powers – China and Russia – in the Koreas.

The Vietnam War may have been the most contentious in American history. 58,000 perished while having the honor to stick with America, regardless of our nation’s sociopolitical divide, showing the patriotism and allegiance lacking by 100,000 draft dodgers.

The War on Terror has been waged in Iraq and Afghanistan, with our men volunteering to fight for our security, wanting not to see a recurrence of 9/11 on our soil and ensuring those who initiated the attacks experience what their victims had. Nearly 5,800 have lost their lives to date in those theatres.

Those high profile wars are but a few of the dozens that have occurred in and out of our borders. American history has long been saddled with military conflicts and occupations. In all of them, many died in - and because of - combat. All of those fallen soldiers should be recognized for giving of themselves so that America can be and will be a nation of power, honor and integrity, just as they were in the moments leading up to their ultimate sacrifice. Without them, we wouldn’t be here. So, please, memorialize them today. It’s our patriotic duty and the right thing to do.

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 30 May 2011 Greater Niagara Newspapers

Thursday, May 19, 2011

End aid to Israel

By Bob Confer

Last week’s column addressed the need to end foreign aid based on our ongoing, wrongheaded support of despotic regimes like those in Egypt and nations, like Pakistan, that have ended up being traitorous to us.

The discussion shouldn’t end there. Aid should be terminated as well for nations widely considered to be our beloved allies. Case in point, Israel. It receives the most in American aid and since 1949 we’ve donated more than $119 billion (most of it militaristic in nature) for an average of $1.9 billion per year. As if that wasn’t enough, it was announced in 2009 that the US would be increasing aid to the Israelis and they would receive $30 billion over this decade.

It’s not as if Israel needs it. The nation of 7.7 million people strong is one of the healthier economies on the planet and certainly one of the most advanced in southwest Asia. It has a gross domestic product of $219 billion, which places it 49th in the world, a stellar ranking for one so small.

So why do we do it? There are a few reasons in the minds of those who orchestrate our benevolence, ranging from moral to strategic to religious.

Many say that we have a moral obligation to protect one of our only true friends in the Middle East, a Westernized nation located amongst a fractured mess of ill-minded countries that hope to do harm – and have done harm - to them, us and the rest of the modernized world. Supposedly, as an added benefit, we can secure a military ally who can fight alongside us (if not offer us a base of operations) in the future when we “need” to take on the Middle East for whatever reason exists at that time (oil, nukes, terrorism, etc.).

More truthfully, our reasons are quite different. As a general rule, Americans don’t seem to mind - and often demand -our government’s intrusion into Middle Eastern affairs via Israel based on purely religious reasons. Jews and Christians believe we have an obligation to God to maintain the sovereignty, safety, and sanctity of the Holy Land (or at least in the form that it has existed since 1948). They don’t mind forsaking money and/or life, even though it is in strict defiance of the Constitution. The First Amendment clearly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” By basing our global pursuits on religious grounds, we are doing just that, especially egregious when one considers that the Muslims and Baha’is also lay claim to the Holy Land. In essence, we’re waging a Holy War, albeit it one by proxy (through Israel).

What has been the “benefit” to the United States? Try September 11th.

Osama bin Laden was quoted on numerous occasions throughout the 1990s calling for the destruction of America and Israel for their collusion in forcibly driving Muslims from the traditionally-defined Palestinian region. These ongoing charges were reiterated in a bin Laden television statement in October of 2004 during which he admitted that he ordered the September 11th attacks, citing the American-Israeli relationship as his sole reason for attacking America. He said he was inspired by the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon during which towers in Beirut were destroyed. Said bin Laden, "while I was looking at these destroyed towers in Lebanon, it sparked in my mind that the tyrant should be punished with the same and that we should destroy towers in America, so that it tastes what we taste and would be deterred from killing our children and women."

Al-Qaeda did just that, toppling the World Trade Center and nearly the Pentagon and White House, killing thousands of civilians on American soil while leading to the deaths of our soldiers who were sent to the Middle East in hopes of vanquishing terror networks. At the same time, the Constitution was thrown into the trash and the USA PATRIOT Act, among others, led to the desecration of our natural rights.

All of that came about because of foreign aid. By lending a financial hand (and munitions and equipment) to a nation that may be our friend but definitely is not the friend of their neighbors, we were guilty by association. We may have “protected” a great many of the Bible’s hallowed grounds, but at the cost of billions of American dollars, thousands of American lives and liberty itself.

Doesn’t sound like a good investment, does it?

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 23 May 2011 Greater Niagara Newspapers

Thursday, May 12, 2011

End foreign aid now

By Bob Confer

During the Bush Presidency US foreign aid grew from $15 billion to $26 billion per year. When he was elected, it was President Obama’s goal to double that by 2012. That’s par for the course. Despite the merit of the old adage “charity begins at home”, let alone the riskiness of the debt levels that our country has held over the years, foreign aid has always been sacrosanct in Washington. Presidencies and Congresses from both parties have found it impossible to part ways with the giveaways that have supposedly been used to gain political favor or better the human condition around the world.

But, it’s foolish to believe that we’ve received any benefit from our “investments”; if anything, we’ve gained more enemies by picking winners and losers and interfering in others’ national interests. These same expenditures have also done very little to help humanity; when we give money to a nation we give it to its government and, in most cases, there is very little or no trickle-down to their people.

It’s long past due that the federal government either minimizes foreign aid or pursues the more Constitutionally and morally prudent means of abandoning it outright. Now is as good a time as any to make a change: The past twelve months should have been a wake-up call to the proponents of foreign aid (and there are many), proving to them that it is not money well spent.

Take the case of Egypt for example. It has received an average of $1.3 billion in US aid in recent years and over the past 30 years they’ve taken in a total of $60 billion, ranking second. Those last 3 decades saw that money controlled by Hosni Mubarak and his regime, the same brutal oppressors who were famously overturned by their citizens in January. Not surprisingly, the monster Mubarak was someone identified as an ally by our Secretary of State even while the protests were underway.

Then there’s the matter of Tunisia. That nation had a revolution of its own that began in December. By mid-January its President - Zine El Abidine Ben Ali – was ousted, ending 23 years in power. During his State of the Union address in January, President Obama hailed the Tunisian people and indicated they were setting a fine example for the rest of the world. One cannot help but look at such commentary with cynicism: Current and past administrations identified the Tunisian leadership as allies, so much so we awarded them a total of $349 million during Ben Ali’s reign.

Things are even worse in Yemen (another country in a state of revolution), where President Ali Abdullah Saleh has ruled with an iron fist since 1978. Despite our State Department noting his unlimited abuses of the people - ranging from killings to detention and torture – the US government has consistently played a benevolent hand to Yemeni leadership, including $104.4 million in 2009 alone.

Last –and certainly not least – there’s Pakistan. The Obama Administration readily and openly admits that the Pakistanis had to know that the terror leader Osama bin Laden was holed up in their borders. There’s no way that his fortress could have slipped under the radar of Pakistani intelligence and military. It’s painfully obvious that they supported the 9/11 mastermind. What did that treasonous friendship cost us? $1.5 billion per year, a gift that tripled in size back in 2009.

These countries represent a few of the many questionable foreign aid investments that the US continues to maintain. Yet, they are the most high profile of these tenuous times in geopolitics. They’re real head scratchers that should get the Senate and the House to demand we change our way of doing things. If they don’t, you really have to wonder whose side they’re on.

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 16 May 2011 Greater Niagara Newspapers

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ham radio: The original instant messaging

By Bob Confer

The Internet has made the world a smaller place. We can log on to our email and Facebook accounts and share messages with friends and family around the globe. We can use Skype to see and talk to them from the comfort of our homes. It’s like the futuristic technology that was once a part of sci-fi movies is here now.

Even so, there’s still a place for the old-fashioned ways of doing things. There’s little that’s more exciting from a communications hobby standpoint than talking around the world with a two-way radio. The joys of amateur radio – also known as ham radio – still resonate today, even with modern, computer-driven communications being as easy and instantaneous as they are.

I recently got my radio license (KC2ZZW) from the federal government. I was a ham earlier in life, having been licensed in junior high. I inadvertently let the earlier license expire in the late-90s but nevertheless I remained a radio enthusiast, listening to the world on the police scanner and shortwave radio, while talking to it on the CB radio.

It was the limitations of latter that drove me back to amateur radio and I’m glad it did. After a long period of inactivity, the sun is becoming tempestuous again, making sunspots and solar flares, all of which affect our atmosphere and allow radio waves at lower frequencies to travel great distances, even half-way around the world (think of how your AM radio behaves in the overnight hours). In my first days on the air I talked to exotic locales like Argentina and St. Thomas with my modest low-power station. I’m one of those “radio geeks” who aspire to make contacts in all 50 states and hundreds of nations.

There’s also a whole lot of radio above those frequencies as well. A ham license will allow you to communicate in the VHF and UHF range and beyond. Those bands are more local in nature (think of your TV), but your signal can be magnified by repeaters, high-powered towers that re-broadcast your signals. You also have the chance to talk with astronauts on the International Space Station or bounce your radio signals off the moon to other stations on Earth.

Amateur radio is more than just a hobby; it’s a public service, too. Many hams provide emergency communications and coordination efforts when disasters shutdown electrical grids and phone lines. They’ve been instrumental in saving the day on many occasions. They’ve also allowed families thousands of miles away to know that their loved ones are safe and sound in affected areas (perfect recent examples being earthquake-ravaged Japan and areas of the south flattened by tornadoes).

Getting licensed is an easy task. A few years ago the Federal Communications Commission abandoned the Morse code requirements for globally-reaching entry-level permits, an obstacle that proved difficult to many (especially the young) and had prevented them from entering the hobby. Now, you just need to pass a written exam, knowing radio and electrical theory as well as the FCC’s rules and regulations. There are plenty of study guides on the market and many of them actually provide the hundreds of possible questions and answers that the 35-question exams pull from.

If you’re looking for help in getting started, the readers of this paper and its sisters have access to amateur radio clubs in Lockport, Orleans County, Lewiston and the Tonawandas (the last of which offers licensing tests on a monthly basis). These friendly men and women will help you learn the hobby, pass the exam and find the equipment you need (which can be found on the cheap thanks to Ebay and Craigslist). Information about these clubs, exams and amateur radio in general can be found at the website of the American Radio Relay League (

There’s a whole wide world that opens up before you when you turn on your radio. Give it a try.

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, May 4, 2011

Osama bin Laden won, even in death

By Bob Confer

Osama bin Laden is dead.

It’s unknown, though, if he ever existed, at least in the narrative by which we “knew” him. Oh, he was a real live human being, but whether he was actually the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks or the figurehead in charge of al-Qaeda is debatable. Some wonder if he was just a creation of our federal government — a well-crafted piece of propaganda, a person to hate, a target if you will — allowing the United States to invade foreign lands in search of supposed terrorists and weapons of mass destruction while at the same time motivating Americans to exchange liberty for security.

Whether or not bin Laden was a someone or a something matters not. Whatever he was, he was victorious.

For starters, the September 11 attacks bred fear. The shock and awe of the destruction of the Twin Towers, as well as the plane crashes into the Pentagon and the farmer’s field in Pennsylvania, have been deeply ingrained in the psyche of the American people. The attacks not only killed thousands that day, but they left millions dreading similar large-scale assaults, as well as smaller ones on public transportation, shopping malls, and schools.

That fear led to the willing abandonment of our constitutional and natural rights of privacy and freedom, all for the assumed salvation of Western Civilization. Too many Americans were more than happy to allow intrusion by the federal government into their personal lives on the slim chance that it might actually catch a foreign or domestic terrorist. Through the likes of the USA PATRIOT Act, wiretapping, domestic surveillance, invasive flight-risk assessments, and other police state tactics, the American people showed their soft underbellies, allowing Congress and the Executive Branch to run roughshod over the world the Creator had made for us and the nation that our Founding Fathers had so wisely bequeathed us. America is forever changed, and we can no longer pursue life, liberty, or happiness without some bureaucrat or agent looking over our shoulder.

Another of bin Laden’s goals was the economic destruction of America. He was, in part, quite successful. He may not have orchestrated a total collapse, but he put us on the precipice. Each of the various Homeland Security endeavors costs all levels of the U.S. government a total of $100 billion per year — a cost that hadn’t existed prior to 2001. The so-called "War on Terror," whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Pakistan, has cost American taxpayers $1.19 trillion dollars so far. These expenses have occurred at a time when the federal government is sinking ever deeper in debt and is unable, or more accurately, unwilling to plan for the future of the vast entitlement programs. The economic hardships spawned by bin Laden, and continuously fed by our military-industrial complex, only add to the fiscal disasters we face.

As of May 1 bin Laden is now “officially” dead. At least that’s what the Obama administration would have us believe, even though a body was never presented and many assume he died years ago when his kidneys gave out. Even so, he’s still victorious. His death showed that there are a good many "ugly Americans," no better than the barbarians we claim to fight overseas. No sooner was President Obama’s Sunday night press conference over than people filled the streets in New York City, Washington, D.C., and college campuses everywhere, reveling in the death of bin Laden. It was a spectacle to behold, with tens of thousands of people rioting in glee over the demise of another human being. If bin Laden and his orchestrations were real, he was certainly amongst the most evil of men, and it was a newsworthy accomplishment that he was caught, but it was classless and totally immoral to throw a party over his death. It should instead have been a somber moment — a time to remember all those he killed and those we sacrificed to find him.

How can parents now explain to their children that it’s acceptable to cheer over someone's death? How can we prove to the world that we are better than the terror cells and Islamic fascists who breed hate? We can’t, in either of those circumstances. We have seen emotionally-charged and very similar uprisings (yet for entirely different reasons) from our enemies around the world in recent years, and every time we have decried their anti-human sentiments. Yet, here we are guilty of doing the same, showing our own lack of civility.

America is better than that and we must prove it. Somehow, we need to make amends for our boorish behavior of the past two days and show that our American values and Christian ethics are real, not just talk — that we understand that the snuffing out of a human life is not reason to cheer.

If we don’t remedy this situation, bin Laden can claim yet another victory, even from the grave.

Bob Confer is a regular contributor to The New American. He also writes a weekly column for the Greater Niagara Newspapers and is the vice-president of Confer Plastics, Inc.

This column originally appeared in the 03 May 2011 The New American at: