Archive for March, 2019

Abolishing the Electoral College could result in the United States of California

March 29, 2019


Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution provides that the President of the United States, together with the Vice President, shall be elected as follows:

“Each State shall appoint . . . a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress, but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.  Congress may determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes, which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.”

The Twelve, Fourteenth, Twentieth and Twenty-Third Amendments to the Constitution also govern the Electoral College.

Legislation is once more being introduced this year to abolish the Electoral College for electing the President of the United States.  The bill would require a Constitutional amendment to elect the President by a direct popular vote.  To enact a Constitutional amendment, it would first need to win over two-thirds of both chambers of Congress.  The amendment would then need to be ratified by three-fourths of the states.

During the past 200 years more than 700 proposals have been introduced in Congress to reform or eliminate the Electoral College.  There have been more proposals for a Constitutional Amendment on changing the Electoral College than on any other subject. Public opinion polls have shown that Americans favor abolishing the Electoral College.

The Electoral College is a process established by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution. It was established as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens.

The Electoral College consists of 538 electors.  A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President.  Each state’s allotment of electors equals the number of members in its Congressional delegation: one for each member in the House of Representatives and two for each state’s Senators.   Also, under the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution, the District of Columbia is allotted three electors and treated like a state for purposes of the Electoral College.

Most states have a “winner-take-all” system that awards all electors to the winning presidential candidate in the state.  Maine and Nebraska each have a variation of “proportional representation.”

After the Presidential election, the Governor of each state prepares a “Certificate of Ascertainment” listing all of the candidates who ran from President in the state along with the names of their respective electors.  The Certificate of Ascertainment declares the winning Presidential candidate in each state and shows which electors will represent the state at the meeting of the electors in December of the election year.  Each state’s Certificate of Ascertainment is sent to Congress and the National Archives.

The meeting of the electors takes place on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December after the Presidential election.  The electors meet in their respective states, where they cast their votes for President and Vice President on separate ballots. Each state’s electors’ votes are recorded on a “Certificate of Vote,” which is prepared at the meeting by the electors.  The Certificates of Votes are sent to Congress and the National Archives.

Each state’s electoral votes are counted in a joint session of Congress on the 6th of January in the year following the meeting of the electors.  Members of the House and Senate meet in the House chambers to conduct the official tally of electoral votes. The Vice President, as President of the Senate, presides over the count and announces the results of the vote.  The President of the Senate then declares which person has been elected President and Vice President of the United States.  The President-Elect then takes the oath of office and is sworn in as President of the United States on January 20th in the year following the Presidential election.

There have been five times in United States history when a candidate won the Presidency despite losing the popular vote: 1892 (John Quincy Adams over Andrew Jackson) 1876 (Rutherford B. Hayes over Samuel Tilden), 1888 (Benjamin Harrison over Grover Cleveland), 2000 (George W. Bush over Al Gore) and 2016 (Donald J. Trump over Hillary Clinton).

“Trump won 37 states. Hillary won 13. That’s why we have the electoral college — So we are not the United States of California.”

There are no less than three good reasons for maintaining the Electoral College: (1) the Founding Fathers enshrined the Electoral College in the Constitution because they thought it was the best method to choose the President, (2) the Electoral College ensures that all parts of the country are involved in selecting the President and (3) the Electoral College guarantees certainty to the outcome of the Presidential election.  Opponents of the Electoral College contend (1) the reasons for which the Founding Fathers created the Electoral College are no longer relevant, (2) the Electoral College gives too much power to “swing states” and allows the Presidential election to be decided by a handful of states and (3) the Electoral College ignores the will of the people.

The best reason for maintain the Electoral College is because it ensures that all parts of the country are involved in selecting the President.  If the election depended solely on the popular vote, then candidates could limit campaigning to heavily-populated areas or specific regions. To win the election, Presidential candidates need electoral votes from multiple regions and therefore they build campaign platforms with a national focus with the winner actually serving the needs of the entire country.  Without the Electoral College, groups such as Iowa farmers and Ohio factory workers would be ignored in favor of pandering to metropolitan areas with high population densities, leaving rural areas and small towns marginalized.

The wisdom of the Founding Fathers also cannot be overlooked.

“The United States is a representative democracy operated under a ‘republican’ form of government, as provided for in Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution. . . . In 1787, the Founding Fathers, based on their direct knowledge of history showing that unlimited power tends to become a tyrannical power, created the United States as a republic — not a pure democracy. . . . The Founding Fathers knew that as the nation grew and the time required for debating and voting on every issue increased, the public’s desire to take part in the process would quickly decrease.  As a result, the decisions and actions taken would not truly reflect the will of the majority, but small groups of people representing their own interests. . . . As part of their plan to separate powers and authority, the Founders created the Electoral College as the method by which the people could choose their highest government leader — the president — while avoiding at least some of the dangers of a direct election.”

Source: Robert Longley, Reasons to Keep the Electoral College (Thought Co. — Feb. 14, 2019).

As Alexander Hamilton noted, if the Electoral College “be not perfect, it is at least excellent.”





Penn State won the NCAA wrestling championship for the fourth consecutive year

March 24, 2019


Photo Credit: Aaron Doster / USA Today

Penn State won the 2019 NCAA wrestling championship on March 24, 2019 for the fourth consecutive year and for the eighth time in the past nine years.  Penn State had three individual champions and two second place finishers.  The Nittany Lions had the championship wrapped up before the finals.

Bo Nickal of Penn State was named the tournament’s Most Dominant Wrestler.  The Coach of the Year award went to Scott Goodale of Rutgers.

125 POUNDS — Spencer Lee of Iowa won his second consecutive national title when he beat previously undefeated Jack Mueller of Virginia by a score of 5-0.  No. 1 seed Sebastian Rivera of Northwestern beat Vitali Arujau of Cornell by a score of 8-3 for third place.  Nicholas Piccininni of Oklahoma State took fifth place.

133 POUNDS — Nick Suriano of Rutgers became his school’s first wrestler to win a national championship when he beat No. 1 seed Daton Fix of Oklahoma State by a score of 4-2 in sudden victory.  Stevan Micic of Michigan beat Luke Pletcher of Ohio State in a 6-1 decision for third place.  Fifth place went to Austin DeSanto of Iowa.

141 POUNDS — Yianni Diakomihalis of Cornell, the No. 1 seed, beat No. 2 seed Joey McKenna of Ohio State by a sudden victory score of 6-4.  Jadin Eierman of Missouri beat Dom Demas of Oklahoma for third place in a 2-0 decision.  Nick Lee of Penn State placed fifth.

149 POUNDS — Anthony Ashnault of Rutgers, the No. 1 seed, became his school’s second ever national champion when he defeated No.  2 seed Micah Jordan of Ohio State in a 9-4 decision.  Austin O’Connor of North Carolina was third with a 7-5 decision over Mitch Finesilver of Duke.  Fifth place went to Matthew Kolodzik of Princeton.

157 POUNDS — Jason Nolf of Penn State, the No. 1 seed, won his third consecutive championship by beating No. 2 seed Tyler Berger of Nebraska in a 10-2 major decision.  Nolf scored three takedowns in the first period.  He finished his career with a record of 117-3. It was Nolf’s sixth win over Berger during their careers.  Alec Pantaleo of Michigan took third place by beating Hayden Hidlay of North Carolina State by a score of 5-3.  Kaleb Young of Iowa placed fifth.

165 POUNDS — Redshirt freshman Mehki Lewis of Virginia Tech became his school’s first wrestler to win a national wrestling championship when he beat returning national champion Vincenzo Joseph of Penn State, a No. 2 seed, by a score of 7-1.  Lewis, a No. 8 seed, broke a scoreless tie with four nearfall points midway through the second period and then added another takedown in the third period.  Third place went to Myles Amine of Michigan, who beat No. 2 seed Daniel Lewis if Missouri in a 4-3 decision.  Fifth place went to Isaiah White of Nebraska.

174 POUNDS — In a rematch of last year’s 174 pound final, Zahid Valencia of Arizona State, a No. 3 seed, beat No. 1 seed Mark Hall of Penn State in a 4-3 decision.  It was the third consecutive year that the two wrestlers faced each other in the finals.   Hall won in 2017 as a freshman and Valencia won in 2018.  Myles Amine of Michigan beat No. 2 seed Daniel Lewis of Missouri by a 4-3 decision to take third place.  Jordan McFadden of Virginia Tech placed fifth.

184 POUNDS — Drew Foster of the University of Northern Iowa beat Max Dean of Cornell in a 6-4 decision.  Foster was the first national champion for Northern Iowa since 2000. No 1 seed Myles Martin of Ohio State beat Ryan Preisch of Lehigh by a score of 5-3 to take third place.  Martin was beaten 5-4 by Dean in the semi-finals.  No. 2 seed Shakur Rasheed of Penn State was beaten in the quarter-finals and did not place.  Emery Parker of Illinois took fifth place.

197 POUNDS — Bo Nickal of Penn State, a No. 1 seed, won his third consecutive national championship in a 5-1 decision over No. 2 seed Kollin Moore of Ohio State.  It was Nickal’s third victory over Moore this season.  Nickal concluded his collegiate career with a record of 120-3. Preston Weigel of Oklahoma State took third place by beating Patrick Brucki of Princeton by a score of 7-1.  Josh Hokit of Fresno State was the fifth place finisher.

285 POUNDS — Anthony Cessar of Penn State, a No. 2 seed, beat No. 1 seed Derek White of Oklahoma State in a 10-1 major decision.  Cessar was 30-1 for the year and his only loss this season was to White.  Cessar was the first Penn State heavyweight to win a national title since Kerry McCoy in 1997. Gable Steveson of Minnesota beat Jordan Wood of Lehigh by a score of 4-0 for third place.  Steveson lost 4-3 to Cessar in the semi-finals.  Oregon State’s Amar Dhesi took fifth place.

Penn State won the championship with 137.5 points.  Second went to  Ohio State (96.5), third to Oklahoma State (84), fourth to Iowa (76), fifth to Michigan (62.5) and sixth to Missouri (62).

The tournament took place at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.  A crowd of 18,950 attended the finals. The six-session total attendance was 109,405.


Photo Credit: Tony Rotundo / WrestlersAre



Biden and Sanders are leading in the polls for the Democratic nomination for President

March 18, 2019


Photo Credit: The Western Journal


Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont are leading in polls for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.  Sanders beat Biden 39-24 in the Wisconsin primary poll and Biden beat Sanders 40-23 in the Michigan primary poll.  In the presidential polls, Biden beat Sanders 28-25 and 31-27.

The third choice appears to be Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sen. Kamala Harris of California and former Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke of Texas.

March 18, 2019 (Emerson Poll)

Wisconsin Democratic Presidential Primary — Sanders, 39; Biden, 24; Warren, 14; O’Rourke, 6; Harris, 5; Klobuchar, 4; Booker, 2; others 1 percent or less.

March 12, 2019 (Morning Consult Poll)

2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination — Biden, 31; Sanders, 27; Harris, 10; Warren and O’Rourke, each 7; Booker, 4; Klobuachar, 3; others 1 percent or less.

March 11, 2019 (Monmouth Poll)

2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination — Biden, 28; Sanders, 25; Harris, 10; Warren and O’Rourke, each 7; Booker, 5; Klobuchar, 3; other 1 percent or less.

March 11, 2019 (Emerson Poll)

Michigan Democratic Presidential Primary — Biden, 40 percent; Sanders, 23; Harris, 12; Warren, 11; Klobuchar, 5; Booker, 3; O’Rourke, 2; others 1 percent of less.

Cities in Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil had the highest homicide rate in 2018

March 18, 2019


Photo Credit: The Daily Mail / Alamy

The Mexican cities of Tijuana, Acapulco, Victoria, Juarez and Irapuato were ranked within the Top 10 in the Western Hemisphere for homicide rates during 2018.  Venezuela had three cities in the Top 10 list (Caracas, Guayana and Ciudad Bolivar) and Brazil had two cities (Natal and Fortaleza) and South Africa had one city (Cape Town).

The statistics were released this week by the Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice in Mexico. The number of homicides and rate per 100,000 inhabitants were:

(1) Tijuana2,640 homicides (138.26), (2) Acapulco — 948 (110.5), (3) Caracas — 2,980   (99.98), (4) Victoria — 314 (86.01), (5) Juarez — 1,251 (85.56), (6) Irapuato — 473 (81.44), (7) Guayana — 645 (78.30), (8) Natal — 1,185 (74.67), (9) Fortaleza — 2,724 (69.15) and (10) Ciudad Bolivar — 264 (69.09)

The highest number of homicides were at Caracus (2,980), Fortaleza (2,724) and Tijuana (2,640).

St. Louis was 15th on the list with 187 homicides at a rate of 60.59 per 100,000.   Baltimore was 23rd (309 — 50.52), San Juan, P.R. was 40th (143 — 42.4), Detroit was 46th (261 — 38.78) and New Orleans was 50th (145 — 36.87).

There were 2,868 homicides in Cape Town, South Africa, during 2018 for a rate of 66.36 per 100,000.

The homicide rate in Honduras was apparently left off the list.  In 2018 the homicide rate in Honduras was said to be 90.4 per 100,000 together with the highest incidence of firearm-related deaths in the world.



Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times / State of Gerrero, Mexico

The brackets have been announced for the 2019 NCAA wrestling championships

March 14, 2019


Photo Credit: Stillwater News Press

The NCAA released the brackets for the 2019 NCAA wrestling championship that will begin on March 21, 2019 at Pittsburgh.  There will be 33 wrestlers in each weight class.

The top four seeds in each weight division are:

125 pounds — (1) Sebastian Rivera, Northwestern (25-1), (2) Nicholas Piccininni, Oklahoma State (30-0), (3) Spencer Lee, Iowa (18-3) and (4) Ronnie Bresser, Oregon State (23-1).

133 pounds — (1) Daton Fix, Oklahoma State (30-1), (2) Stevan Micic, Michigan (14-0), (3) Nick Suriano, Rutgers (24-3) and (4) Mickey Phillipi, Pittsburgh (19-2).

141 pounds — (1) Yanni Diakomihalis, Cornell (24-0), (2) Joey McKenna, Ohio State (20-2), (3) Nick Lee, Penn State (27-2) and (4) Josh Alber, Northern Iowa (31-5).

149 pounds — (1) Anthony Ashnault, Rutgers (27-0), (2) Micah Jordan, Ohio State (25-2), (3) Mitch Finesilver, Duke (28-3) and (4) Brock Mauller, Missouri (29-2).

157 pounds — (1) Jason Nolf, Penn State (26-0), (2) Tyler Berger, Nebraska (24-3), (3) Ryan Deakin, Northwestern (29-4) and (4) Alec Pantaleo, Michigan (18-7).

165 pounds — (1) Alex Marinelli, Iowa (23-0), (2) Vincenzo Joseph, Penn State (23-1), (3) Joshua Shields, Arizona State (27-3) and (4) Evan Wick, Wisconsin (28-4).

174 pounds — (1) Mark Hall, Penn State (26-0), (2) Daniel Lewis, Missouri (24-1), (3) Zahid Valencia, Arizona State (26-2) and (4) Myles Amine, Michigan (17-3).

184 pounds — (1) Myles Martin, Ohio State (20-0), (2) Shakur Rasheed, Penn State (18-0), (3) Zachary Zavatsky, Vermont (24-3) and (4) Emery Parker, Illinois (17-3).

197 pounds — (1) Bo Nickal, Penn State (25-0), (2) Kollin Moore, Ohio State (19-2), (3) Preston Weigel, Oklahoma State (11-0) and (4) Patrik Brucki, Princeton (29-1).

285 pounds — (1) Derek White, Oklahoma State (28-1), (2) Anthony Cassar, Penn State (25-1), (3) Gable Steveson, Minnesota (30-1) and (4) Jordan Wood, Lehigh (21-3).

Penn State won the title last year and is currently ranked first in the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) poll.


Photo Credit: Marshalltown Times-Republican


More than $500,000 in cash that was found during a traffic stop may be hard to explain

March 10, 2019


Deputy sheriffs in Lowndes County, Georgia, pulled over a car that was slowly driving down Interstate 75 and moving in and out of the traffic lanes.  They thought that the driver might be impaired.  There were two Colombian men who appeared to be nervous in the car.

Deputies worked with K-2 dogs to search the car.  What they found was rather astounding: $508,000 in cash stuffed in duffle bags and a dog food bag.

“All of it is wrapped the same way they wrap cocaine, the same rubber bands, the same style of wrapping,” said Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk.  “So, when you see that you know where that money’s derived from.”

No drugs were found in the car.  The names of the occupants of the car have not yet been released.

The Latvian Legion’s Parade took place again on March 16 in Riga

March 10, 2019


Photo Credit: Ilmars Znotins / AFP / Getty Images

Approximately 115,000 Latvian soldiers served in the Nazi German armed forced during the Second World War against the Soviet Union.

“At the end of the war, almost 50,000 of them became Soviet prisoners-of-war, imprisoned for short or long periods of time in Soviet filtration or Gulag camps. . . . Many never returned, and a number of the former Legionnaires experienced arrests and imprisonment after they had served their initial sentence.  The forced imprisonment of tens of thousand of Latvian citizens in the Gulag camps and their treatment as Soviet citizens was a human rights violation under international law. Provisions and living conditions in the filtration camps were deplorable with illness, and sometimes death, resulting from malnutrition, poor hygienic conditions, lack of medical treatment, and exhausting labor.”

Source: Uldis Neilburgs, Aftermath: What happened to the Latvian Legionnaires after the war? (LSM.LV — March 16, 2018).

On March 16, 2019, supporters applauded veterans of the Latvian Legion as they paraded through Riga, the capital of Latvia.  Others protested.

Each year on March 16 the parade commemorates a heavy battle that was fought on the eastern shore of the Velikaya River for Hill “93.4,” a strategically important height for both the Soviet and German armies.  It was defended by the 15th and 19th Waffen-SS divisions.  On the morning of March 16 the Soviet assault began and the defenders were forced to withdraw but the Soviets did not break the Latvians’ resistance.  In a counter-attack on March 18 by the 15th Division the hill was recaptured with minimal losses.  After that the Soviets did not try to attack there again.

March 16 was the first occasion in World War II when both Latvian divisions fought together in the same battle and was the only battle in World War II led solely by Latvian commanders.  Thus, in the years after the war, March 16 was chosen by the Latvian Legion veterans’ organization as the day of the Latvian Legion.  Latvian Legion veterans hold a parade in Riga each March 16 and have done so ever since Soviet rule of Latvia ended in 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Latvia was unsuccessful in stopping the Soviet advance, which led to nearly 50 years of Soviet occupation of Latvia.  The parade is controversial to some because the Latvian Legion was created by Germany in January 1943 and commanded by the German Waffen-SS.  The parade is said to be the only public event currently in Europe honoring persons who fought under the banner of the Waffen-SS. There have been constant attempts to ban the parade.

According to the Latvian government, the Latvian Legion was not really an SS unit and that the legionnaires merely sought independence for Latvia.  A spokesman for the Latvian Legion said “it is only in good faith, with gratitude, to pay tribute to the accomplishments of our soldiers . . . .”

“The Legion had no allegiance to Nazism. It was largely conscripted to fight on the Eastern Front against the Soviets, whose last act prior to Germany’s invasion of the USSR — and Soviet-occupied Latvia — had been the mass deportations of Baltic citizens — men, women, children, and infants of all ethnic groups.  Honoring the Legion houours only the act of struggling against impossible odds to keep Latvia free — hoping to first drive out the Russians and to then turn on the Germans in a replay of Latvia’s successful struggle for independence a mere 25 years earlier.  It was only after Latvia declared Legion Commemoration Day a state holiday in 1998 that Russia mounted a concerted propaganda campaign denouncing it as Nazi glorification.  There had been no such accusations of Nazism any of the 46 years prior.”

Source: Telling the Story of the Latvian Legion.

Latvian nationalist organizations such as “All For Latvia!” and “National Power Unity” march in support of the Latvian Legion.  Predominantly Russian organizations like “For Human Rights in United Latvia” hold protests to block the marches.

“For part of the Latvian population [March 16] is not about celebrating legionnaires who fought alongside the Waffen-SS, but rather the 2000 soldiers who sacrificed themselves to push back the Red Army offensive in the name of protecting Latvia’s sovereignty — and March 16 itself marks their success in defending a strategically important point: hill ‘93.4.’ In their view, the 1st and 2nd Latvian military division neither committed any war crime, nor promulgated Nazism in the Baltics; they only fought for their sovereignty against the Soviet Union.”

Source: Etienne Morisseau, Understanding the Latvian legionnaires’ march (The Baltic Times — April 4, 2015) (hereafter Morisseau).

Andris Sne, dean of the Faculty of History and Philosophy of the University of Latvia, explained:

“There is no reason to speak about anti-Semitism or revival of Nazism in relation to the commemorative activities that take place on 16 March. . . . The repressions and mass murders done by the Soviets during the 1940-1941 occupation pressed people to turn against the Soviet forces during the German-Soviet War. . . . But Nazi German power was an occupation power too.”

Source: Morisseau.

The March 1944 battles were just a small part of the anti-Bolshevik defense by Latvia.  The people of Latvia had good reason to dislike the Soviets. During World War II, more than 33,000 Latvians were kidnapped or murdered by the Soviet secret police.

In 1998, Latvia’s Saeima (parliament) voted for March 16 to be an official national remembrance day.  Between 1998 and 2000, Latvian Legion’s Day was on the list of Latvia’s officially celebrated holidays but was called “Remembrance Day for Latvian Soldiers.”  (The word “Legion” was excluded to include all those who fought against the Soviets during both World War II and as resistance fighters afterwards.)   International pressure forced the Saeima to remove March 16 from the list of state remembrance days in 2000. The current position of Latvia is that March 16 is not an official remembrance day and that Latvia commemorates its fallen soldiers on November 11.  During 2018, a bill proposing to make March 16 a national Latvian Legion Day was defeated in Latvia’s parliament.

The Latvian Legion is determined to keep the March 16 commemoration alive.  However, today few of the anti-Bolshevik legionnaires are able to take part because most have died or are too old and in poor health.

The troops of the Latvian Legion were the last divisions to resist the Red Army’s invasion of Europe in 1944-1945.  Against overwhelming odds, the Legion took the brunt of the fighting and continued to engage the Red Army even after Berlin had fallen and Germany capitulated.

Before the formation of the Latvian Legion:

“Thousands of young Latvian men took to the woods and formed anti-communist partisan bands known as the Forest Brothers that attacked Soviet facilities and isolated military units when possible. . . . Soviet repression — officially termed ‘An Operation to Cleanse the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian Soviet Socialist Republics of Anti-Soviet, Criminal and Socially Dangerous Elements’ — reached its peak the week before the commencement of Operation Barbarossa [on June 22, 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union]. Approximately 40,000 persons were rounded up by Stalin’s henchmen and sent to forced labor camps near the Arctic Circle in Karelia or Siberia.”

Source: Hal Elliott Wert, The Latvian Legion of World War II (History Net — Feb. 8, 2017; originally published in the March 2015 issue of Armchair General) (hereafter Wert).

“On January 23 [1943], SS chief Heinrich Himmler received Hitler’s approval to form a Latvian SS Volunteer Legion, eventually to be composed of two Waffen SS volunteer divisions. Already deeply anti-Bolshevik, the Latvians shared the Germans’ goal of defeating the Soviets; for them, however, the greatest appeal of a legion was that it could be the basis for building a national army that would restore Latvian independence. . . . Many of the volunteers were former members of the Latvian army or former policemen who deeply regretted that they had not fought the initial 1939 Soviet military incursions. For them, the legion provided an opportunity for redemption and revenge as well as the possibility of future independence.”

Source: Wert.

“In January 1944, the 2d [Latvian Division] expanded once again and became 19th Waffen SS-Grenadier Division (2d Latvian).  The Latvian divisions fighting south of Lake Peipus now constituted VI SS Volunteer Corps, which retreated in the face of the surging Red Army and tumbled into poorly prepared defensive positions along the Velikaya River christened the Panther Line. The harrowing retreat in deep snow and below-zero temperatures amid repeated attacks by bands of partisans took its toll on the Latvian divisions.  In April, toward the end of the Soviet winter offensive, 15th Latvian, despite an extraordinary effort, was shattered and pulled from the line. Meanwhile, 19th Latvian, although severely depleted, held its ground and was spared as the spring thaw brought the Soviet advance to a halt.”

Source: Wert.

“The last remnants of what had once been 15th Waffen SS-Grenadier Division (1st Latvian), about 800 officers and men, surrendered to the Americans April 25, 1945. Yet 19th Waffen SS-Grenadier Division (2d Latvian) ended the war differently than did the 15th. . . . Throughout autumn, fierce fighting continued in Estonia and Lithuania and outside Riga as Army Group North backed up and retreated into Courland — 30 German divisions were trapped there, including the 19th. . . . Costly, bloody fighting continued until May 8, 1945, when approximately 5,000 soldiers of 19th Waffen SS-Grenadier Division (2d Latvian), along with a n additional 9,000 Latvians in other German units, surrendered to the Soviets.  The Latvian Legion was no more.  Some officers were executed and the rest were sent to labor camps, as were the soldiers from the 15th who had surrendered earlier.  Over half died in captivity.  Between 1949 and 1956, those who survived were finally released.”

Source: Wert.

The Commander of the 15th Division, Oberfuhrer Adolf Ax, reported on Jan. 27, 1945:

“They [the Latvian legionnaires] are first and foremost Latvians. They want a sustainable Latvian nation state.  Forced to choose between Germany and Russia, they have chosen Germany, because they seek co-operation with western civilization. The rule of the Germans seems to them to be the lesser of two evils.”

Source: Inesis Feldmanis and Karlis Kangeris, The Volunteer SS Legion in Latvia (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia).

“This perspective [of the lesser of two evils] resulted in part from the Soviet occupation between 1940 and 1941, called ‘The Year of Terror’ during which tens of thousands of Latvian families were executed or deported to Siberia with men separated from the women and children to break down resistance.”

Source: N. Wingfield and M. Bucur, Gender and war in twentieth-century Eastern Europe (Indiana Press — 2006).

“Legionnaires hoped to fight off the Red Army until it was no longer a threat against Latvia and then turn against Nazi Germany, as a repeat of the Latvian War of Independence of 1918-1920, when Latvian forces expelled both Bolshevik and German forces. Legionnaires carried Latvian flags under their uniforms as a symbol of hope.”

Source: A. Ezergalis, Latvian Legions: Heroes, Nazis, or Victims? A Collection of Documents From OSS War-Crimes Investigation Files: 1945-1950 (Historical Institute of Latvia — 1997).

As early as 1943 a British investigative mission found Latvians stood against both their Soviet and German occupiers.  Source: Heinrihs Strods, Zem melnbruna zobena (Riga, 1994, page 96, fact finding mission of July 5, 1943).

A 2000 documentary titled “Latvian Legion” was directed by Inara Kolmane and scripted by historian Uldis Neilburgs.  It covers the beginning of the Legion, its actions in battle and the controversy which has been created today.  The 40-minute film includes newsreels, examination of popular perceptions, interviews with former legionnaires, historians and the general public.  The film was made by the film studio “Devini” with support from the Ministry of Defence of Latvia.

Today the Republic of Latvia is a small country (24,938 square miles) in the Baltic region of Northern Europe less than 2.0 million people.  (For a comparison, the state of West Virginia is 24,239 square miles.)  The largest city is Riga with a population of about 700,000.   Latvian is the official language.

Latvia is bordered on the north by Estonia, on the south by Lithuania, on the east by Russia and on the southeast by Belarus.  It shares a maritime border with Sweden to the west.

The first free national elections were held in 1990. The 100-seat unicameral Latvian parliament, the Saeima, is elected by direct popular vote every four years. The president is elected by the Saeima in a separate election, also held every four years. The president appoints a prime minister who, together with his or her cabinet, forms the executive branch of the government, which has to receive a vote of confidence by the Saeima.

The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia was established in 1993 in Riga as an historical educational institution to educate the public about the 51-year period when Latvia was occupied by the USSR in 1940-41, then by Nazi Germany in 1941-1944 and then again by the USSR from 1944-1991. The museum’s missions includes to: “Show what happened in Latvia, its land and people under two occupying totalitarian regimes from 1940 to 1991.” The various exhibits display the atrocities committed against the people of Latvia and the systematic destruction of the nation’s sovereignty.


Photo Credit: Museum of the Occupation of Latvia

As of 2011, Latvians formed about 62 percent of the population while about 30 percent are Russians. Belarusians, Ukrainians, Poles and Lithuanians also account for from three to one percent of the population.  About 84 percent of the population are citizens, 14 percent are non-citizen permanent residents and about 47,000 are citizens of other countries — mostly Russia.

There is no state religion in Latvia  Most of the population rarely attends church services. There are 294 Lutheran congregations with a membership of about 700,000; 240 Roman Catholic congregations with a membership of about 500,000 and 122 Russian Orthodox congregations with about 370,000 members.  There are other smaller congregations as well.

The United States’ first group of Latvian immigrants (old Latvians) began arriving in the late 1800s. About 90,000 persons in the United States identify as Latvian or Latvian-American.  Common male Latvian names include Valdis, Janis and Martins. Common female names include Madara, Leide and Maija.

Approximately 1,000 persons marched in the parade on March 16, 2019 in honor of the Latvian Legionnaires.  Those supporting the ceremony placed flowers at the Monument of Freedom in Riga.


Photo Credit: Ilmars Znotins / AFP / Getty Images



The son of a famous female mountain climber who died on K2 in 1995 died while climbing Nanga Parbat

March 9, 2019


Photo Credit: Facebook of Daniele Nardi

Tom Ballard, 30, originally from Belper in Derbyshire, England, was only six-years-old when his mother, Alison Hargreaves, died in 1995 at age 33 while climbing K2.  In an attempt to climb Nanga Parbat, Mr. Ballard suffered the same fate as his mother.

Mr. Ballard’s mother was the first woman to scale Mount Everest alone.  She conquered Everest without supplementary oxygen and support from a Sherpa team.

The bodies of Mr. Ballard and Italian climber Daniele Nardi, 42, were spotted on March 6 during an aerial search at Nanga Parbat, also known as Diamer and the “Killer Mountain.”  They set out on their climb on February 22 hoping to scale the infamous Mummery Spur.  (Mummery Spur was named after British climber Albert F. Mummery, who in 1895 led the first attempt to climb the mountain. On Aug. 24, 1895, Mr. Mummery died in an avalanche along with two men from Nepal.)


Photo Credit: 

Mr. Ballard and Mr. Nardi had been out of contact since February 24.  Temperatures had plunged to -40 C with winds at 200 mph when Mr. Ballard and Mr. Nardi went missing.  A team of four Spanish rescuers ultimately spotted the bodies of Mr. Ballard and Mr. Nardi at an altitude of 20,700 feet and close to their last known position.

Mr. Ballard was a skilled climber who in 2015 became the first person to solo climb all six major north faces of the Alps in one winter.  This was his first attempt to climb an 8,000-meter mountain.  Mr. Ballard wrote in advance of his expedition:

“It’s a real new learning experience, I have to learn a lot more about my body and how I react to altitude.  I’ve done a lot of first winter ascents in the Alps, but Himalayan Winter Alpinism is so much more remote, so much high and colder. It makes everything exponentially more difficult and dangerous. The tasks involved in Himalayan climbing are the same, just harder.”

Mr. Nardi hailed from near Rome.  He had attempted to scale Nanga Parbat during the winter on three other occasions.  He had extensive experience on 8000-meter mountains including Everest, K2, Cho Oyu and Broad Beak.

Nanga Parbat is located in Pakistan’s Gilgit Baltistan area. At an altitude of 26,660 feet (8,126 meters), it is the ninth highest mountain in the world.  It is situated in the western Himalayas in the Pakistani sector of the Kashmir region. More than 30 persons have died while attempting to climb Nanga Parbat. (These include three Japanese climbers who died on the mountain on July 7, 1984 and three other Japanese climbers died on Nanga Parbat on July 12, 1983.)  No climber died on Nanga Parbat after the 1895 deaths of Mr. Mummery and his companions until 1934, a year that resulted in the deaths of six persons from India and five Germans.

In 1953, Austrian climber Hermann Buhl was the first person to successfully reach the top of Nanga Parbat.

Life of Mr. Ballard and His Mother — After the death of Mr. Ballard’s mother he moved with his father, James, and sister, Kate, to Fort William in Lochaber in the Scottish Highlands. Mr. Ballard had been living in Italy’s Dolomites mountain range with his father for the last few years.  Mr. Ballard’s girlfriend, Stefania Pederiva, wrote on social media that her heart was “completely drowned.”

“This is one of the most dangerous, difficult mountains in the world, and in the winter, I think if anything goes wrong, it happens pretty quickly,” said Alan Hinkes, one of Britain’s most experienced climbers.  Mr. Hinkes knew Mr. Ballard’s mother.

Ms. Hargreaves (Feb. 17, 1962 – Aug. 13, 1995), was six months pregnant with her son Tom when she climbed the north face of The Eiger, a 13,015 feet (3,967 meter) mountain in the Bernese Alps.  She successfully climbed K2 but died during a fierce storm while descending along with American Rob Slater, Spaniards Javier Olivar, Javier Escartin and Lorenzo Oritz and New Zelander Bruce Grant.  Canadian Jeff Lakes turned back before reaching the summit.  He reached one of the lower camps but died from exposure.

Ms. Hargreaves’s life is told in a 2000 book by David Rose and Ed Douglas titled Regions of the Heart: The Triumph and Tragedy of Alison Hargreaves. She was also the subject of a 2006 BBC documentary titled Inside Story: Alison’s Last Mountain.


Photo Credit: Chris Bacon / PA

Washington state high school basketball championship for 2019

March 4, 2019


Photo Credit: Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review

Twelve teams were crowned as the state basketball champion after the WIAA Hardwood Classic concluded on March 2, 2019 at Tacoma, Yakima and Spokane.

4A Division at Tacoma — # 2 seed GONZAGA PREP beat # 4 seed Mount Si, 69-43, to win the boy’s title.  A # 8 seed, EASTLAKE, beat # 3 Lewis and Clark, 53-47, to win the girl’s championship.

3A Division at Tacoma — O’DEA, a # 11 seed, beat # 2 seed Mount Spokane, 70-39, for the boy’s title.  The # 1 seed PRAIRIE, beat # 2 seed Mount Spokane, 37-35, in the girl’s championship game.  This was the closest score in a championship game.

2A Division at Yakima — LYNDEN, the # 1 seed, beat # 7 seed Selah in the boy’s championship game by a score of 60-51.  # 7 seed WASHOUGAL beat # 2 seed East Valley (Spokane), 49-40, to win the girl’s title.

1A Division at Yakima — The # 3 seed, ZILLAH, beat the # 11 seed, King’s Way Christian, by a score of 90-68 to win the boy’s championship.  The # 1 seed, LA SALLE, beat # 3 seed Lynden Christian by a score of 56-49 to capture the girl’s title.

2B Division at Spokane — The # 1 seed, KITTITAS, beat # 3 seed St. George’s, 79-51, to win the boy’s title.  TRI CITIES PREP, a # 2 seed, beat # 6 seed Liberty (Spangle), 50-42, to win the girl’s championship.

1B Division at Spokane — SUNNYSIDE CHRISTIAN, the # 1 seed, defeated # 6 seed Yakima Tribal by a score of 54-45 to win the boy’s championship. The # 1 seed, COLTON, won 51-43 over # 2 Pomeroy to take the girl’s crown.

In the championship games, the top scorer for the boys was Anton Watson of Gonzaga Prep (33 points) and the top scorer for the girls was Beyoncé Bea of Washougal (30 points).

In consolation games for third place, Jordyn Jenkins of Kentridge scored 32 points, Eyon Zevenbergen of King’s scored 31 points and Shane Nowell of Eastside Catholic scored 30 points.


Photo Credit: Joshua Bessex / Tacoma News Tribune

Biden and Sanders lead in early polls

March 3, 2019


Photo Credit: Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders lead in the most recent  Presidential and state primary polls.  Biden had support of between 22 and 37 percent while Sanders had between 19 and 27 percent.  Sanders is an announced candidate.  Biden has said he is leaning in on a run for the White House.

Sen. Kamala Harris’ numbers have ranged from seven to 14 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s numbers have ranged from four to nine percent.

Here are the polls between Feb. 22, 2019 and March 2, 2019:

The Emerson Poll (March 2, 2019) for the South Carolina Democratic Primary was Biden (37 percent), Sanders (21 percent), Harris (nine percent), Cory Booker (six percent), Warren and Beto O’Rourke (each five percent), Michael Bloomberg and Tulsi Gabbard (each two percent) and others (one percent or less).

The University of New Hampshire Poll (Feb. 28, 2019) for the New Hampshire Democratic Presidential Primary was Sanders (26 percent), Biden (22 percent), Harris (10 percent), Warren (seven percent), O’Rourke (five percent), Klobuchar (four percent), Booker (three percent) and others (one percent or less).

The Harvard-Harris Poll (Feb. 28, 2019) for the 2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination was Biden (30 percent), Sanders (19 percent), Harris (10 percent), Booker (five percent), O’Rourke and Warren (each four percent), Klobuchar and Bloomberg (each two percent) and others (one percent of less).

The Morning Consult Poll (Feb. 26, 2019) for the 2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination was Biden (29 percent), Sanders (27 percent), Harris (10 percent), Warren and O’Rourke (each seven percent), Booker (four percent), Klobuchar (three percent), Bloomberg (two percent) and others (one percent or less).

The Emerson Poll (Feb. 23, 2019) for the New Hampshire Democratic Presidential Primary was Sanders (27 percent), Biden (25 percent), Harris (12 percent), Warren (nine percent), Klobuchar (eight percent), O’Rourke and Booker (each five percent), Bloomberg (two percent) and others (one percent or less).

The UMass Amherst Poll (Feb. 22, 2019) for the New Hampshire Democratic Presidential Primary was Biden (28 percent), Sanders (20 percent), Harris (14 percent), Warren (nine percent), O’Rourke (six percent), Booker (three percent) and others (one percent or less).

As of Jan. 31, 2019 there were 13 announced candidates for the 2020 Democrat Presidential nomination.  They are Sen. Cory Booker, 49, of New Jersey; Mayor Pete Buttigieg, 37, of South Bend, Ind.; Julian Castro, 44, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; John Delaney, 55, former Maryland representative; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, 37, of Hawaii, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, 52, of New York; Sen. Kamala Harris, 54, of California; Gov. Jay Inslee, 68, of the state of Washington; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, 58, of Minnesota; Sen. Bernie Sanders, 77, of Vermont; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 69, of Massachusetts; Marianne Williamson, 66, a spiritual guru, New Age author and entrepreneur; and Andrew Yang, 44, founder of Venture for America, a nonprofit organization in New York.

There are said to be 20 others considering a candidacy including Joe Biden, 76, former Vice President; Michael Bloomberg, 77, former mayor of New York; New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, 57; Eric Holder, 68, former U.S. Attorney General; Terry McAuliffe, 62, former Governor of Virginia; Sen. Sherrod Brown, 66, of Ohio; Rep. Tim Ryan, 45, of Ohio; Sen. Michael Bennett, 54, of Colorado; Gov. Steve Bullock, 52, of Montana; John Hickenlooper, 67, former Governor of Colorado; Sen. Jeff Merkley, 62, of Oregon; Rep. Eric Swalwell, 38, of California; John Kerry, 75, former Secretary of State and Senator from Massachusetts; Rep. Seth Mouton, 40, of Massachusetts; Andrew Gillum, 39, former Mayor of Tallahassee, Florida and Beto O’Rourke, 46, former Representative from Texas.