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Deja vu all over again 

Last night, the BBC broadcast this year’s Dimbleby lecture. Bill Clinton, as you’d expect, gave an articulate, learned tour d’horizon, entitled The Struggle for the Soul of the 21st Century.

As a longtime Clinton fan, I suspect I was a rare viewer who stayed up past 11pm to watch the whole speech. I had the definite sense that many parts of the speech are the former president’s new boilerplate: the paragraphs and phrases he bolts into (now highly paid) speeches, whatever the occasion.

It’s sad, whatever you may have thought of Clinton’s presidency, to see how rapidly ex-political leaders become superfluous, even when they are young and intelligent. Of American presidents, only Jimmy Carter – a poor president – has found a worthwhile afterlife.

I did like, however, Clinton’s conclusion. First, he said that whatever the problems brought into focus by 11 September, he remains hugely optimistic about this century. And then he finished: “It’s great that your kids will live to be ninety years old but I don’t want it to be behind barbed wire. It’s great that we’re gonna have all these benefits of the modern world, but I don’t want you to feel like you’re emotional prisoners. And I don’t want you to look at people who look different from you and see a potential enemy instead of a fellow traveller. We can make the world of our dreams for our children, but since it’s a world without walls, it will have to be a home for all our children.”

One for each week  

John Sutherland, who wrote the unmissable Is Heathcliff a Murderer and successor volumes, has a list of 52 things they do better in the US. I disagree about the bananas, both on grounds of taste and to support the tiny island economies versus the central American agribusinesses.


Very nicely, Dave Winer has shortlisted me as one of the 15 Bloggers of the Year. The competition is pretty heady, and includes a number of people who I refer to on a nearly daily basis. In fact, going through the list of Dave’s nominees would serve as a very good basis for finding some of the most interesting commentary about what’s going on in our complex world.

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