Since Europeans have taken to professing amazement and horror at the doings of our president, it seems appropriate to tell then what amazes us about their doings.
Libertarians of the world be on alert: Just when it seemed that we had coaxed the state into shrivel mode, our British cousins have given progressives here a new reason for returning to expansion mode. A “Loneliness Commission” set up by a member of Parliament reports that 9 million adults in Britain are lonely, and that the health effect on loneliness is the equivalent of obesity and smoking 15 cigarettes a day. “There is currently a gap in national leadership on loneliness” advises the report. So when next a Brit hears a knock on the door it will be a government loneliness minister accountable to Parliament, there to combat loneliness, perhaps his own.
In Japan, the city of Ueda is taking a page from McDonald’s play book. You can now attend the funeral of a dear departed by motoring up to a drive-through window at the local cemetery, signing a tablet computer, and placing a pinch of ceremonial incense on your forehead. This replaces an often-lengthy ceremony with a few moments spent in the comfort of your car. As you pay your respects at the drive-through, cameras photograph your brief homage and send the image to the inner reception room where the family of the deceased sits in mourning.
Back to the United Kingdom, where Prince Harry inconsiderately ruled that his marriage to Meghan Markle be held on the same day as the FA Cup final. Harry selected the date, a Saturday, so that there would be no need to declare what our British friends call a “bank holiday,” which would have given the commoners a day off from work. Whether that will dent the prince’s popularity will be watched carefully by palace factota. William, the Prince’s brother and best man, and the heir to the throne (in British terms William is the heir and Harry the spare) is also president of the Football Association and even though the morning ceremony will conclude before the 5:30 p.m. opening kick-off, it’s a tight schedule even by royal standards. Fear not. According to the Daily Telegraph, “FA officials are consulting with palace aides to ensure there will be enough time for him [Prince William] to get to the match” and present the winners’ trophy. That is what Stephen Sondheim would call a weighty affair that cannot wait upon a post-wedding celebration.
Meanwhile, France’s president Emmanuel Macron decided to celebrate his 40th birthday-he is the youngest French head of state since Napoleon-by renting a cottage on the grounds of a 440-room Renaissance palace built on the orders of King Francois I. One critic accused Macron of being “cut off from the people,” but the leader of the president’s party in Parliament leaped to his boss’s defense-sort of-declaring, “I also rent holiday cottages with my family.” Macron’s use of a palace built for a king dead for five centuries was more than France’s Republicans could bear, especially since their president also has 11 millionaires in his cabinet. Piker. Our president can see his millionaires and raise him a few billionaires.
And he styles himself a populist, a billionaire of the people.
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