The Penny Chronicles

My name is Penny.

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I’ve always thought and hoped that I was a special dog.  I’ve tried to be good, I really have.  I’ve chewed a few things, sure, and sometimes the food I eat comes right back up again, but I can’t help that.  I protect our place when cats come around, and, unlike another dog whose name starts with K, I never have “accidents” in the house.

But I knew I was special when I saw my picture on the cover of a magazine.  And, at about the same time, the Leader started giving me wet food out of cans!  Food out of cans, can you imagine?  That’s when I knew how special I really am.

Now, when I was through the neighborhood, I know all eyes are on me.  “There she goes,” they are saying, “the special dog who was on the cover of a magazine.”. Other dogs in the neighborhood, like Sassy, act like nothing has changed, but they can’t fool me.  I’m famous!

If being famous means getting that wet food from the can, I like it!  Speaking of which . . . I am hungry!

P.S.  Don’t forget today is National Dog Day!

Euro Zone Danger Zone

With all the bad news around the world lately — from ISIS savagery to North Korean nuttery, from Russian power plays in Ukraine to Chinese saber-rattling in the Pacific, from the Ebola outbreak in west Africa to Boko Haram mass kidnappings — nobody’s paying too much attention to Europe.  That’s unfortunate, because Europe is a mess right now.

Economically, Europe is a basket case.  In the second quarter of this year, Germany’s economy — the largest on the continent — shrank by 0.2 percent.  The most recent data indicates that business growth continued to slow in August.  In France, the economy is completely stagnant, producing no growth for several quarters while unemployment is above 10 percent.  The French economy minister resigned yesterday in a public disagreement with the country’s very unpopular President about whether France should follow austerity policies or policies that funnel government money directly to households; the economy minister said he felt compelled to speak out to try to avoid the European Union’s “descent into hell.” 

IMG_5596The unemployment situation in Europe is terrible.  Statistics presented by the European Central Bank president at an international conference last week are daunting — they show European unemployment growing while American unemployment is declining and indicate that the recession that hit the world in 2008 really hasn’t ended in the Eurozone.  The statistics also show that people who aren’t highly educated are losing their jobs by the truckload and that jobs are vanishing in the business sectors that traditionally employed less educated people — like construction and heavy industry.  The service sector is holding steady, which means that if you’re looking for a job in the Eurozone and you don’t have advanced degrees, you’re lucky to get a position as a waiter.

When economies fail and bitter people can’t find jobs to fill their time and feed their families, political and social unrest follows closely behind.  It therefore shouldn’t be a surprise that we are seeing a deeply troubling increase in anti-Semitism in Europe, from public protests triggered by the Israeli-Hamas fighting in Gaza to attacks on synagogues and social media hate speech.  The fact that some Europeans are returning to virulent anti-Semitism of their forefathers indicates that the EU initiative really hasn’t materially changed a continent where prejudices run deep.

The economic, political, and social situation in Europe is a toxic mix.  Other crises have distracted attention from the various Eurozone woes, but we shouldn’t ignore what’s happening across the Atlantic.