A crisp analysis of the limits of our civil rights laws and a prescription for how to move beyond them.



A law professor argues against the harmful misuse of our civil-rights laws.

If instances of outright discrimination today are relatively rare, we have the 20th-century's civil-rights movement and the laws it inspired to thank. Ford (Law/Stanford Law School; The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse, 2008, etc.) forthrightly acknowledges this monumental achievement, but asks if those laws are now being stretched too far to cover every type of unfairness or slight. In an increasingly ambiguous and complex social landscape, are we doing more harm than good by insisting every injury or grievance amounts to a civil-rights violation? Ford enlivens his discussion with numerous, colorful example of rights gone wrong, cases where the laws are being abused to the detriment of genuine social justice. For example, Google fires a veteran Internet pioneer, deeming him a poor cultural fit. He sues, claiming age discrimination. A fan sues a Major League Baseball team after being denied the Mother's Day goodie bag distributed to all females. Another man files suit to be a waiter at Hooters; still another repairs to court against a Manhattan nightclub for its ladies' night promotion. All claim sex discrimination. A Harvard medical student, already granted an extra eight hours to complete a licensing exam because of her ADHD, demands still more time for a breast-pumping break. The organized San Francisco bicyclists who disrupt traffic, the Million Man marchers, the Promise Keepers, plaintiffs, protesters, even the Jena Six criminal defendants—all vigorously assert their "civil rights" and all, writes Ford, injure the social compact that recognizes a corresponding duty for every right. To view every instance of disparate treatment through the lens of discrimination—at the expense of common sense, civility and pragmatic problem-solving in the public interest—is to encourage the moral poseurs, narcissists, absolutists and extremists among us and to invite a host of outrageous, unintended consequences for those the laws were intended to help.

A crisp analysis of the limits of our civil rights laws and a prescription for how to move beyond them.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-25035-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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