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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

May 18, 2007

cinemas, contingencies, and customs carping

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 3:20 pm

It’s another one of those days when there are simply too many topics in the news and around the blogisphere that pique my interest and lead me astray from the task of posting punditry and poetry here at f/k/a. Before Friday afternoon slips by completely, here are some of the things that have been on the slippery slope of my mind.

MovielandSchdy NYC-based Bow Tie Cinema opened its newest theater complex last night right here in Downtown Schenectady, New York. With six screens and a promise of “style and elegance,” Movieland Schenectady has raised the hopes of civic and business leaders, the public and the politicians. See “Rekindling the love of the big screen,” Albany Times Union, and “New movie theatre opens in downtown Schenectady,” CapitalNews9, May 18, 2007. It’s been decades since there has been a first-run movie theater in downtown Schenectady, which until very recently could only be called forlorn. To change that, the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority has had the task over the past decade — fueled with a half-cent added to our county sales tax — of revitalizing the empty streets and storefronts of Downtown Schenectady.

summer day
a seat in the movies
away from others

………….. by john stevensonUpstate Dim Sum (2004/II)

With posts such as local schmocal and schmittal italy, we have reported on some of Metroplex’s more perplexing investments — including an attempt to put a 14-screen movieplex on the same block (which couldn’t attract financing, despite Metroplex putting up half of the $10 million price tag). Despite the fact that a number of movie theaters in our NY Capital Region have closed in recent years, Metroplex’s chairman Ray Gillen told the Times Union that “A lot of the (analysts) who looked in the market here consider it underscreened.” We all have good reason to be skeptical of the analysts used by development authorities, who always seem to think a locality needs more hotel rooms and another convention center. Nonetheless, living only half a mile from Movieland Schenectady, and desirous of an booming and interesting downtown, I send my best wishes to Bow Tie Cinemas and Metroplex on the success of this project. Of course, I have the (apparently congenital) need to make a few curmudgeonly observations:

  1. BowTieSchdy When I hear words like “elegance” and “style” thrown around by a vendor, I immediately worry about prices. Seeing that matinee tickets will be $7 and regular prices will be $9 — in a town with very-off-Broadway income levels and standard of living — I’confirms my concerns, especially after reading that Metroplex put up almost $5 million (of the total $13.3 million cost) for the building that houses Movieland and a few floors of office space.
  2. I like the Bow Tie promise to never have advertisements on its movie screens, but I’m going to scream if I hear about the “real butter” on the Bow Tie “signature popcorn” one more time. [Can’t wait to hear the price on a boxful.]
  3. The news that beer and wine will be served at the Movieland Cafe makes me cringe, given the lack of manners already shown in America’s theaters. Even worse, is the crowd-pleasing availability of “Gourmet Hot Foods – fresh-baked pizza, mozzarella sticks, chicken tenders, french fries & more.” Having to smell such delicacies while attending a movie, and dealing with their predictably sticky aftermath on the stadium seats and floors makes me want to stay home and wait for the release on dvd. Sure hope those seats are wide enough for all the folk who need a few thousand calories with their elegant cinematic experience.
  4. So far, my nominee for the silliest ribbon-cutting sound bite by a local pol: “If you take a date here, you’re going to fall in love. Let’s start with that,” said State Senator Hugh Farley.


wind-beaten marquee
saying only
“Coming Soon”

the summer sun
under the exit door

………….. by john stevenson
“wind-beaten marquee” – Some of the Silence (Red Moon Press, 1999)
“matinee” – Quiet Enough (Red Moon Press, 2004)

SlicingThePieF Federal Lottery for Lawyers Shut Down. Private lawyers who are hired by the U.S. Government to handle its lawsuits will have to settle for merely being handsomely paid for their services, instead of striking it rich by taking a giant slice of damages secured on behalf of the public. (via’s Ted Frank) Under Executive Order: Protecting American Taxpayers From Payment of Contingency Fees, dated May 16, 2007, contingency fees may no longer by used when hiring outside counsel. Here’s an excerpt from the Order:

Policy. To help ensure the integrity and effective supervision of the legal and expert witness services provided to or on behalf of the United States, it is the policy of the United States that organizations or individuals that provide such services to or on behalf of the United States shall be compensated in amounts that are reasonable, not contingent upon the outcome of litigation or other proceedings, and established according to criteria set in advance of performance of the services, except when otherwise required by law.

one third flip I’ve always believed that litigants who can afford to pay an hourly rate should have that option when hiring a lawyer in a tort, personal injury or malpractice suit. As discussed here, the ABA’s Formal Ethics Opinion 94-389: Contingent Fees (1994) specifies that lawyers must always give a client the option of paying by the hour or a flat fee rather than a contingency fee, and must base the percentage used for any contingency fee on the actual risk involved (of not being paid or being inadequately paid) in bringing the suit. Personal injury trial lawyers, however, virtually all refuse to work on any other than the contingency fee basis — with its promise of monster windfall fees. [In what looks to me like an antitrust violation, California’s trial lawyer association appears to require the use of contingency fees, as it brags that “CAOC members . . . . are paid only from those cases which are successful.”]

complaint bill The federal Government should be bringing cases only when they appear meritorious and worth the risk/use of taxpayer dollars — especially when deciding to use outside lawyers. Resulting damages in the billions or (merely) tens of millions should not be shared with the lawyers hired as surrogate government attorneys. Handing out plum jackpot lawsuits to politically-connected firms happens far too often on the state level, but it is good to see the new ban by the feds. [As Point of Law has reported, a California court recently barred the use of contingency fee arrangements by the government].

For more on this topic, see the Commentary of Jim Beck & Mark Hermann; although I don’t agree with every point made, it is an interesting read. update (May 21, 2007): Walter Olson‘s thoughtful Wall Street Journal piece on this topic, “Tort Travesty” (May 18, 2007), is now online at the Manhattan Insitute website. Among other points, Walter argues: “The fact is that most such suits are dreamed up by the private law firms and sold to the local officials, not vice versa. Competitive bidding is the exception rather than the rule in retaining the law firms, which routinely recycle handsome donations to the campaigns of the mayors, attorneys general and other officials who hire them. Pay-for-play is so routine that it hardly raises even a shrug anymore. When government legal officers refuse the overtures and instead employ their own staff attorneys to handle such suits, they can face bitter resentment and political pressure for not playing the game in the expected way.”

great clouds,
each one the size of
my hometown

phone message
from a stranger
with parakeets

……… by John Stevenson
“great clouds” – Mainichi Daily News, 10th Haiku Contest, 2007
“phone message” – Geppo, Sep/Oct, 2006

QkeyNs sKeyNs Carping not Consensus: It isn’t surprising, but it is nonetheless sad to see that the compromise immigration reform proposal unveiled by a truly bipartisan group of senators and the White House yesterday is already being attacked from all sides. Whether it is the Amnestyphobes (whose one-word rationale spells bigotry to me), the Familiaphiles (who want all family members to follow lawful immgrants and not just the spouse and minor children), the Unionistas, or the Pulse-taking Presidential candidates, I hope reasonable heads and the spirit of compromise will eventually prevail. See the New York Times article “Senators in Bipartisan Deal on Immigration Bill” (May 18, 2007) for a good summary of issues, slogans and candidate reactions.

by the lavish praise
I imagine getting

……… by John Stevenson – HPNC Senryu Contest, 2006

1 Comment

  1. When privatization doesn’t work…

    PoL contributor Jonathan B. Wilson has some further thoughts on government’s use of contracting-out in affirmative-litigation cases (see May 19, etc.):Government outsourcing would seem to work best when the tasks being outsourced are discrete and do n…

    Comment by PointOfLaw Forum — May 22, 2007 @ 8:58 pm

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