Angela Merkel Re-Elected As Geman Chancellor

Monday, September 28, 2009

Angela Merkel emerged as German Chancellor (Kanzlerin) yesterday. She'll now lead a coalition of her CDU-CSU (Christan Democratic Union-Christian Social Union) party with the FDP (Free Democratic Party, Freie Demokratische Partei). This "officially" ends the Grand Coalition that put Merkel in power back in 2005 between the CDU-CSU and SPD (Social Democratic Party, Sozialdemokratische Partei).

SPD Chancellor Candidate- Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Merkel and her CDU/CSU party alliance received 33.7% "unofficially" according the Associated Press account linked to below, that along with a coalition of the FDP will give her a majority of seats in the German Parliament (Bundestag) without the Grand Coalition that has existed since 2005 with the SPD. Needless to say this is big for Merkel and the CDU/CSU. The results are likely to be analyzed every way under the sun but they no doubt will show the German voters' unhappiness with the Grand Coalition that has existed since 2005.

Many traditional SPD voters felt that the party had moved too much to the right as part of the Grand Coalition with Merkel and the CDU/CSU. Much of the SPD's power base has eroded over the last few years. Gerhard Schröder (SPD) beat Edmund Stoiber (CDU/CSU) in 2002 and had enough votes in the German parliament by forming a coalition with the Green Party (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen). Oskar Lafontaine (a former prominent and storied SPD memember) decided in 2005 that the SPD didn't fit him any longer and joined the WASG (Labour and Social Justice Electoral Alternative). The PDS (Party of Democratic Socialism) and successor of SED (Socialist Unity Party of Germany, the ruling party of East Germany till 1989) gained popularity with German voters in 2005. In the 2005 election the PDS and WASG both drew traditional voters away from the SPD. Since there wasn't enough seats in the Budestag based on historical alliances (the SPD and the Greens and the CDU/CSU and the FDP) talks started between the SPD and CDU/CSU. Resulting in Merkel becoming the first women German Chancellor.

The election results are encouraging for the FDP, often referred to as being "liberal" and "pro business", as they're likely to get more cabinet positions and have more influence on the emerging government. They're seen to be backing more radical tax cuts and pro market reforms.

The election results are also encouraging for the Die Linke (the Left), which today is a coalition of PDS and WASG that joined forces in 2007, got 12% of the vote (again unofficial). This is something that has to really bother SPD leadership as they plan for the future. Frank-Walter Steinmeier conceeded fairly early yesterday, indicating that he would now wear the mantle of opposition leader.

Being an American observer in the German elections, I can't help but look at things through my American experiences and background. I tend to look at the CDU/CSU as being more like the American Republican Party, while the SPD is more like the American Democratic Party. While all the parties will state that they're different than the others, I find that the major parties are too similar and maybe don't really reflect the "average" voter (whatever that might be now a days) that well. I have said to some of my German friends before that if you voted for say the Greens, wouldn't you be disappointed that they then form a coalition with the SPD? The response was a pragmatic that by voting for the Greens, you give them more seats in the Budestag and they can have more influence on policy and votes coming out of the government, which is a lot different than the all or nothing view of the American system.

If there wasn't such widespread belief that the SPD have left its members behind, you would think that they would have been able to capitalize on the financial crisis and take control of the government in Berlin. There is a lesson to be learned by politicians and government leaders everywhere, the framing of that lesson will be colored in kinds of ways, no doubt. It'll be interesting to see the official numbers and see how the candidates did in the different areas. Only time will tell what the parties learn from this election (if they learn anything at all).

Links You Might Want to Check Out...

Photo credits: Angela Merkel (2008)-2.jpg courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and
Frank-Walter Steinmeier 0918.jpg courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

September 11th- Eight Years Later

Friday, September 11, 2009

As time goes by we find that eight years have now passed since September Eleventh and although it is still often talked about and not something that will be forgotten anytime soon, the memories fad and the events of that day get buried behind other tragedies and world events. I’d like to that the time to honor the memory of some of the victims. Project 2996 celebrates the memory of the victims. Last year was the first time that I participated in this worthy event writing about David Laychak. I discovered Project 2996 when I was writing a post for the Sixth Anniversary of September Eleventh and decided that I wanted to participate.

This year I decided that I wanted to write about fire fighters Keith Roma, Christopher Santora, Joseph P. Henry, Karl Henri Joseph, and Dana Hannon who all died while saving lives at the World Trade Center as well as honouring the memory of David Laychak. This year my journey has really been a journey. I wanted to write about fire fighters this year and starting looking to see who I would write about. All the fire fighters mentioned above kind of jumped out at me for one reason or another, so I thought that I’d like to write about them all this year.

Keith Roma

Keith Roma was 27 and with Fire Patrol. When I first saw his picture with him holding a baby I was drawn to him. His daughter (Samantha) was seven at the time of his death, so I had an immediate connection. Of everyone that I researched this year, I spent the most amount of time reading about him. There had been some controversy about including him in the list of FDNY victims of September 11th list, because the New York Fire Patrol was a fire fighting assistance organization run by the New York Board of Fire Underwriters that typically responds to commercial fires trying to salvage stuff. When at fires, the Patrol was required to follow the orders of the fire department management at the site. Keith was called to the World Trade Center and fell under orders of the FDNY then. There is little doubt that Keith was a hero, as there were witnessed accounts of him saving people that day and he died along with nine people that he was trying to save.

New York City Mayor Rudi Giuliani said at Keith’s memorial service “I kept wondering, where do we find people like this – that can walk into a fire and take people out?” “I figured it out after all these memorial and funeral services. We find them because of their families and the way that they were brought up.” (quote from AN FDNY HERO’s LAST GIFT) The was one of the last of his funerals as mayor.

Keith’s parents were presented with a plaque from National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) President Michael Pickens and New York State Superintendent of Insurance Gregory V. Serio in recognition for the service of their son. "Keith Roma is a true hero and embodies the spirit of the New York fire patrolman," said Serio. "As a firefighter, I have seen firsthand what these men and women go through each and everyday and I thank each and everyone of them for their service to this great city over the past two centuries." (quote from NAIC HONORS NEW YORK WTC HERO KEITH ROMA)

Keith has a street in Richmondtown name after him. Keith gave flowers to a woman he ran into that was crying over the anniversary of her mother’s death one day. She had pink roses for the family when they visited the Fire Patrol.

Fire Patrol’s website has a tribute to Keith Roma along with other fire fighters. There is a nice remix of Arms of the Angels - Sara McLoughlin played on this page as well as access to other parts of the. I saw a report that the Fire Patrol was being disbanded, which would be really sad considering their long storied history and Keith Roma’s heroic efforts on September 11th. Breaking the 9-11 myth describes efforts to get Keith Roma listed among the office FDNY September 11th victims list. There is a lot to read about Keith at the Voices of September 11th website.

Christopher Santora

Christopher Santora was 23 and part of Engine Company 54. I was immediately struck by his age. I’ve read that he was the youngest fire fighter to have died of the September 11th victims, but it he wasn’t the youngest he was one of them. After graduating from Queens College, he was a substitute teacher he even turned down a permanent job at Junior High School 10, to follow in his father’s footsteps as a fire fighter. He father had been a deputy chief. Growing up he played “stickball” as it was called in his neighborhood. Christopher wasn’t a Mets or Yankees fan as you might expect but rooted for the Toronto Blue Jays. He seemed to enjoy holding different opinions. Richard Grech, his oldest friend said "If you said something stupid, he was all over you." (quote from the New York Times). He had just finished a shift when his father got a call asking him to go to the fire at the World Trade Center.

A scholarship fund has been established in Christopher’s name “This scholarship celebrates that student who can engage the judges in a topic taken from today's political or historical forums. Oftentimes our winners are not the top of their class. Sometimes they're the ones who more blend in than stand out for their academic accomplishments. But some­how they show us passion and skill when we ask our annual question. They show us a spark, a flame. They make an emo­tional connection with us through their words and ideas. These are the students we seek to encourage, the flames we seek to kindle.” (from the Christopher Santora Website)

Although a rather odd name, “P.S. Q222 - Fire Fighter Christopher A. Santora School”, was named after Christopher. His sister decided to enrol her son there, even though she didn’t live nearby. You would have thought that the heroic fire fighter’s nephew would be able to get in without any problems, but that wasn’t the case, but ultimately the nephew was accepted.

"It [will] be a great honor to have my son attend the school that's named after my brother," said Jennifer Echevarria, 34. "Even though he never met [his uncle], he has a sense of knowing him. He's aware that it's named after his uncle," she said (Jennifer’s quotes from a story at NY Daily News) . The school is listed on a New York City Schools portal, but I didn’t find an actual website specifically for the school.

There are a lot of tributes to him at the Voices of September 11th website.

Joseph P. Henry

Joseph P. Henry was 25 and with Ladder 21 out of Manhattan. I was immediately drawn to him when I read “I was trapped in building one for an hour. I would not be alive if it weren't for the firemen who unlocked and broke down the doors to the stairwells. I want Joseph's family to know that when the time comes and I get married and have a family, I will name my first born boy after him. He was an amazing person and I will forever keep him and his family in my prayers.” Vanessa Sierra, college classmate (from the CNN Tribute to September 11th).

Julia Corrales (his girlfriend) wrote “Joe Henry worked as a Fireman for only 11 months before he was taken from us on September 11, 2001. He was a great boyfriend, friend, brother, and son. He is missed by everyone. He went to the WTC with his fellow brothers from Ladder 21 but none of them got to walk out and go home.

Joe always told me to be strong and enjoy life. He always reassured me about how much he loved me and how strong our love together was. I can truly feel that now. I can look at his pictures and remember all the love that we shared. I know my Joe is ok and with God. As are all his brothers from the FDNY. They will all be missed. OCt. 19, 2001 was to be our first vacation together as a couple. We were going to Ireland. We never got to take that trip. Someday Ihope to go and see it for the both of us.“ (posted at the Irish Tribute website)

Firefighter Joseph Patrick Henry Lane” in Brooklyn was named after Joe. (Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signs bill naming 81 streets after heros of 9/11). He was one of 81 September 11th victims to have a street named after him.

Jenn did a very nice tribute to Joseph as part of Project 2996 that is worth checking out. I wonder if Vanesa will have have that son? I wonder how many other victims were engaged and will never be able to marry their loved ones just as with Julia?

Karl Henri Joseph

Fire fighter Karl Henri Joseph was 25 and working from Brooklyn. He was an EMT. I’m not sure when, but Karl and his family came to the U.S. from Hati.

Lucy Bouciquot, a family friend said "He liked Haiti," she said, "but America was his home." (from his entry at Legacy).

"Karl had a way of shrugging off the ribbing. He had a great smile and a great laugh," Mr. Beehler said. "As far as the job, he was top-notch." from his entry at Legacy). Mr. Beehler is a fire fighter that went through the academy with Karl. Tuxedo Cat Grandma wrote a nice tribute 2996: Karl Henri Joseph in 2006 worth checking out.

Karl is another shinning example of an immigrant working hard for a better life in America.

Dana Hannon

Dana Hannon, 29 at the time of his death was the first of the group of fire fighters that I came across. At 29 he was the oldest of the fire fighters that I selected. I was struck almost immediately by the following quote about Dana…

“Although I did not know Dana all that well, I had the honor of attending his celebration of life. Dana was not only a NYC Firefighter, but a true and gracious friend who was always there to help others. I am sorry that I did not have the chance to know him better. He will be truly missed by his family, his fiancee, his co-workers and his friends and most of all me - a person he barely knew. Dana, thank you for all the lives that you touched throughout your life. You will always be here in spirit.”D.K (From his entry at the CNN Tibute to September 11th)

Before being a professional fire fighter he was a volunteer fire fighter, rising through the ranks to become Captain. He was a fire fighter in Bridgeport, Connecticut where he was awarded a medal of valour for a rescue there. He was an avid hunter interested in hunting deer, ducks, and geese.

Dana proposed to Allison Dansen from the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia, talk about a memorable marriage proposal! They married the fall after that. "He was the best brother anybody could ask for," said his sister, Kyle. "Just the right mix of friend and tormentor." (from his tribute at Legacy)

Danielle at Stupid Trivia wrote A TRIBUTE TO DANA HANNON a nice article that I assume was a Project 2996 tribute in 2006.

David W Laychak

I wrote about David W Laychak last year and just wanted to mention him again this year. David worked as a civilian at the Pentagon. His brother was largely responsible for the memorial at the Pentagon which opened last year. I’m sure that David’s family and friends are glad to know that the memorial opened up! I also wanted to thank his sister (Molly Laychak Walen) for the information that she provided to me last year. David, you have to know that your family and friends are thinking about you on this and many other days!

Since I want to publish this on September 11th this year, I’m going to need to close. To everyone that lost a family member, loved one, friend, or just feels connected to this sad day, I hope that we’ll take a few moments to remember the lives of those that we lost back on that day in 2001. Maybe you can go over to Project 2996 and look for some other tributes that you can read. Why take time to let those that are close to you know that you appreciate them or honor of those September 11th victims that we can't reach out to. Thank you for taking the time to read my tributes. If you like this blog, why not think about adding us to your RSS feed, subscribing by email (button located on top right-hand corner of the blog). Feel free to add/friend/follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or any of the other various sites listed in the upper-right hand corner of the blog. Be sure to check out my Systems-Overload blog. To family and friends of the victims that I wtote about I”d love to hear from you and would be glad to include any additional information that you might want to share with my tribute next year or in subsequent follow up articles, feel free to leave comments or email me at systems.overload.time at I’ve accumulated a lot of September 11th websites and hope to share some of these links in the near future. Till we meet again.


Photo credit: "honor the fallen" courtesy of notmyown