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What Lawyers Have In Common With Auto Mechanics and Dentists

Because of its complexity, Hadfield points out, legal help is what economists call a “credence good”—a good “provided by an expert who also determines a buyer’s needs” because the buyer is “unable to assess how much of the good or service they need; nor can they assess whether or not the service was performed or how well.” The classic examples are auto repair and dentistry, but most legal services qualify, too. Just as the average consumer is unable to verify how many cavities he has or how many auto parts he needs replaced, he’s often unable to question a lawyer on just how many hours of lawyering will be sufficient to resolve his problem. The effect is a pernicious lack of transparency “about the actual value of a lawyer.” And since the costs are sunk in the event of a loss, there’s a strong incentive for already-paying clients not to skimp.

The legal profession also operates, Hadfield notes, within what is essentially a “monopoly on coercive dispute resolution”: If you have a legal issue you don’t really much choice about where to go. You have to deal with a system controlled by lawyers, all of whom have come up through the system.

Michael Zuckerman, in The Atlantic, on the challenges of an affordable legal system.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ta-Nehisi Coates Calls for Reparations, and a 'Spiritual Renewal' for America

We must imagine a new country. Reparations—by which I mean the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences—is the price we must pay to see ourselves squarely. The recovering alcoholic may well have to live with his illness for the rest of his life. But at least he is not living a drunken lie. Reparations beckons us to reject the intoxication of hubris and see America as it is—the work of fallible humans.

What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices—more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal. Reparations would mean the end of scarfing hot dogs on the Fourth of July while denying the facts of our heritage. Reparations would mean the end of yelling “patriotism” while waving a Confederate flag. Reparations would mean a revolution of the American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, in The Atlantic, on the history of slavery in America—in all its forms—and why reparations are necessary to make the country whole.

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Photo: Children of a sharecropper, 1935, Wikimedia Commons

A call for women and men to have a more honest conversation about work-life balance:

Today, however, women in power can and should change that environment, although change is not easy. When I became dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, in 2002, I decided that one of the advantages of being a woman in power was that I could help change the norms by deliberately talking about my children and my desire to have a balanced life. Thus, I would end faculty meetings at 6 p.m. by saying that I had to go home for dinner; I would also make clear to all student organizations that I would not come to dinner with them, because I needed to be home from six to eight, but that I would often be willing to come back after eight for a meeting. I also once told the Dean’s Advisory Committee that the associate dean would chair the next session so I could go to a parent-teacher conference.

After a few months of this, several female assistant professors showed up in my office quite agitated. ‘You have to stop talking about your kids,’ one said. ‘You are not showing the gravitas that people expect from a dean, which is particularly damaging precisely because you are the first woman dean of the school.’ I told them that I was doing it deliberately and continued my practice, but it is interesting that gravitas and parenthood don’t seem to go together.

“Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” — Anne-Marie Slaughter, The Atlantic

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Ethan Imboden is founder of Jimmyjane, a Bay Area company that is aiming to bring design standards and mainstream acceptance to a product that has long been hidden away from the public: 

Within Sharper Image, that neck massager became known jokingly as ‘the Sex and the City vibrator,’ but in 2007, Imboden approached the company with the Form 6. Literally the sixth in a series of vibrator sketches — Imboden believes in minimalist names — the Form 6 has a curved, organic shape that is suggestive without being representational. It is wrapped completely in soft, platinum silicone, making it completely water-resistant, and charges on a wall-powered base station through a narrow stainless steel band, a novel cordless recharging system that Imboden patented. For these features, the Form 6 earned an International Design Excellence Award, the first time a sex toy had earned such a distinction. It comes in hot pink, deep plum or slate—non-primary, poppy colors that he believes convey sophistication. It is packaged in a hard plastic case inside a bright white box — ‘literally and figuratively bringing these products out of the shadows,’ Imboden said. And it has a 3-year warranty (this may not seem remarkable, but is for a sex toy).

“Can a Better Vibrator Inspire an Age of Great American Sex?” — Andy Isaacson, The Atlantic

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When she came back to her desk, half an hour later, she couldn’t log into Gmail at all. By that time, I was up and looking at e‑mail, and we both quickly saw what the real problem was. In my inbox I found a message purporting to be from her, followed by a quickly proliferating stream of concerned responses from friends and acquaintances, all about the fact that she had been “mugged in Madrid.” The account had seemed sluggish earlier that morning because my wife had tried to use it at just the moment a hacker was taking it over and changing its settings—including the password, so that she couldn’t log in again.

“Hacked!” — James Fallows, The Atlantic

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The Tyranny of Defense Inc.

The Tyranny of Defense Inc.

The Pentagon Papers Trial

The Pentagon Papers Trial

I said, ‘What’s your — pardon me — your fucking plan, then, if you don’t like this?’” “‘We don’t like—’ I said, ‘Don’t tell me what you don’t like! Tell me how you’re going to stop the North Korean nuclear program.’ ‘But we wouldn’t do it this way—’ ‘Stop! What are you going to do?’ I could never get a goddamn answer. What I got was ‘We wouldn’t negotiate.’” I pointed out that the North Koreans had cheated on the 1994 agreement. “Excuse me,” Gallucci said, “the Soviets cheated on virtually every deal we ever made with them, but we were still better off with the deal than without it.