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Smart talk, May 28



LR judge to FISA court


Chief Justice John Roberts has appointed federal District Judge Susan Webber Wright of Little Rock to the 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This is the panel that reviews requests for wiretaps and other surveillance to catch terrorists. Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Morris S. “Buzz” Arnold of Little Rock already was a member of the three-member review panel that  hears appeals of requests denied by the FISA Court. Arkansas has a disproportionate share of the seats on a sensitive judicial arm. Both Arnold and Wright are Republicans, not surprising given the political pedigree of the chief justice. Wright was appointed to a term to run through 2016.


Vampire is a hit


An Arkansas author hit the No. 1 spot Sunday in the New York Times bestseller list for hard cover fiction. She's Charlaine Harris of Magnolia, author of the popular Sookie Stackhouse vampire romance series, which has been the basis for a hit HBO show. Her latest is “Dead and Gone.” A Times feature about the author quoted Harris as saying she drew inspiration for her work in familiar places. “Every trip to Wal-Mart is an inspiration,” she said.


Discord at Dillard's


Dillard's Department Stores employees were buzzing last week about an unflattering article about the company in the New York Post. It was an anonymously sourced piece that put some of the company's troubles at the feet of a reported struggle between Dillard CEO Bill Dillard Jr. and his younger brother Alex Dillard. Said the article: “As they vie for control of the business, sources say the rival brothers micromanage their respective fiefdoms, routinely over-riding decisions made by lower management.” The article depicted the elder Dillard as clinging to some old-fashioned notions — such as an emphasis on men's suit sales — while Alex Dillard was more willing to break from custom. Nobody has a clue if the sources are reliable. Nobody at Dillard's is talking, as is the company practice.

But the article drew attention mostly for a cartoonish illustration the Post built for the article. It put the head of Bill Dillard Jr. on the body of a flashily dressed golfer to match its assertion that “Critics of the company in recent years complain that Bill Jr. is too familiar with corporate jets, opulent stores and golf.” Fore.


Welcome to the Third World


Another one of those rankings, another dispiriting finish for Arkansas. This time it's the Human Development Index. It was devised by international scholars and used by the United Nations to measure nations on such factors as education, life expectancy, GDP and literacy. Well, some wiseacre has taken the same metrics and compared them with the 50 states. Arkansas didn't finish so hot. Against the states, it finished ahead of only Louisiana, West Virginia and Mississippi. But the international picture was worse. A development index below that of Cuba? Albania? Bulgaria? Kazakhstan? And 70 others? Is it any wonder Borat paid us a visit a while back?


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