Chapter 5. Bill Meets Mohela

We can't trust the banks to help boost the economy. The invisible hand of the marketplace is in the taxpayers' pocket.

Representative Dennis Kucinich (D., OH)

A few weeks later, at a party in Reston, Virginia, I was delighted to see an old acquaintance, a much-respected Washington attorney, Peter Panaretes. A few years earlier, Peter had graciously introduced me to a Chinese consultant for help on an illustrated novel I was writing about the life of an ancient Chinese calligrapher. Aside from mutual respect, my friendship with Peter was based on a love of music. I knew Peter had blue chip financial bona fides, although we seldom had reason to discuss Wall Street. I enjoyed his wit, his love of travel (the Italian Dolomites, especially), and his fondness for the arts—a trait rare among financial types, unless you include the fetish of collecting masterpieces as badges of success.

What I most admired about Peter was his lack of pretension, his Mark Twain-ish sense of humor, and his love of classic jazz. These traits marked him as being a cool guy. Cool has its limits, of course. As the afternoon wore on, I got a surprise dose of reality. I was in the market for a lawyer and, for the first time, asked Peter to tell me about his legal practice. As it turned out, he was in the business of defending banks and brokerages. This out-of-the-blue revelation was about as unexpected as a missed chord by Aretha Franklin. I was hoping Peter might consider defending our ...

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