Friday, February 1, 2013

Ah, Skadden

So last night I got into the London Stock Exchange - the security is pretty tight but I was legit!  (Although I did feel undercover-y having just been at an Occupy meeting.) Eleven years after I left Skadden, for the first time, I attended one of their alumni events.  I have changed a lot since I worked for Skadden and I wanted to see what I made of that world, that world of dark suits, expensive watches, overworked faces.  That perilous combination of sleep deprivation and self-importance.  All that basically hadn't changed.

  It was billed as a Washington Insider panel discussion, three partners from the DC office spoke, Greg Craig, Paul Oosterhuis and Sharis Pozen.  It was interesting.  Craig and Pozen are fresh from the Obama administration.  Pozen was in antitrust.  She basically confirmed that they were in the position to indict and prosecute banks for criminal behaviour but instead chose to pick off a few individuals because they were scared of the economic consequences of punishing the banks for their crimes.  She was so nice, the Lena Dunham of antitrust with big brown eyes and a fast wit, but I wish she could have heard herself talking.  Really?  Because what she said is that the banks are above the law.  What about fiat justitia ruat caelum?  Let justice be done though the heavens be torn asunder.  Nope.  The government is scared of hurting the banks.  I think this is incredibly undemocratic and a betrayal of the rule of law.  Served up with delicious free Champagne, though.

Then Craig, bizarrely, said that the priorities for the next Obama administration were going to be Syria, Egypt and Iran.  It wasn't clear what the administration was going to do about Syria and Egypt but Craig said the United States was going to be forced by Iran to work on stopping Iran making nuclear weapons because otherwise they would be forced by Iran into an arms race.  Notice how many times the phrase "forced by Iran" was ratcheted into that sentence.  I mean, I just had this mental image of a mother beating a child saying "why are you forcing me to do this?" - that is why no one thinks they are a bully, right, on a personal level, they don't think they are a bully because they think the person they are bullying is forcing them to behave this way.   Does the United States really have so little perception of its own place in the world that they feel "forced" into a nuclear arms race?  Their nuclear capacity is already exponentially greater than anyone else's.  And no one is forcing anyone's hand.  So of all the possible things to tell an international audience,  Craig picked saying that the US was au fait with some action against Iran.  Do me a favor, Mr. Craig and make sure your holiday cards don't say "peace on earth".  Because with the marvellous canapes we heard the musings of a war apologist, maybe even a warmonger (monger is an old word for peddler).  Who I am absolutely sure is just the nicest person in the world.

I think if I had heard this talk eleven years ago I would have been exhilarated by the sheer insider-y ness of it all; the intelligence and quick wit of the speakers, I would have been so caught up in that world which I thought was cool that I wouldn't have noticed those awful comments  - of course you can't prosecute banks, they might collapse -- of course we should invade Iran, Iran is making us.  It probably would have become my own opinion on the subject.  This is how conventional wisdom is born, isn't it?

Well, conventional wisdom is really letting us down.

Not a word about the Euro, the economy,  the rising inequality in the world, the plutocracy   - and that is how conventional wisdom is born, too, isn't it, in what we do not speak of.  What we do not notice.  What we do not see.

So probably no one will read this and if they do and I don't get invited to any more alumni events then I think I will survive.  Once in eleven years is good.