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Category Archives: American Greed

Hubris Leads to Black Restaurateur’s Spectacular Failure

Washington, DC., New York, Chicago, San Fran, LA, and Dallas All host great restaurants – of which a half dozen or so compete on the World Stage of greats.You want to open a restaurant and claim it belongs you better be on the very, very, very top of your game. Legendary locations for exquisite cuisine include The French Laundry, Per Se, Alinea, or  Le Bernadin are world famous. The top 5, 10, or 50 list is hotly contested and changes from year to year. Per person seatings generally run from $80 to $300 before the wine tab.

In the Washington, DC area that list include perennial favorite, The Inn at Little Washington, as well as relative newcomers Minibar, Rasika, Komi, Fiola, and French traditional stalwart L’Auberge Chez Francois.

So when an upstart opens a new place with a price tag of $1,000 a seating, at 4 times the price of 2 of the highest Michelin rated restaurants in the US, you better be able to  produce something so spectacular, people faint at first tasting.

Alas… This foolish brother couldn’t “walk the walk”.

Just from a single guy standpoint, if I’m picking up a $2,000 tab – everything from the decor, ambiance, food, service, wine better be so good – my date hands me the room key to the Presidential Suite she paid for at the hotel…With the bottle of champagne!

I’m not paying 4 times the going rate for some of the very best restaurants in the world…For a place whose decor looks like “Early Howard Johnson’s”

Image result for Shaw Bijou

Shaw Bijou Dining Room @ $2,000 for 2

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The competition — The Inn at Little Washington Veranda Dining Room @ $300-$500 for 2

Shaw Bijou, one of D.C.’s most expensive restaurants, has closed after less than three months

Fail! Chef Kwame Onwuachi lost his debut restaurant after less than three months of business.

The Shaw Bijou closed today, and the owner says the blame for the restaurant’s two-and-a-half-month existence is shared among all the principals.

Kelly Gorsuch, the principal owner of Shaw Bijou, says he saw himself as a silent investor, providing the capital for first-timers chef Kwame Onwuachi and general manager Greg Vakiner to build and run the high-concept restaurant they had been planning for years. But in retrospect, Gorsuch says he should have pushed the duo more from the start.

He says that the restaurant’s pricey tasting-menu dinner wasn’t filling seats or covering costs. So on Sunday, Gorsuch called Onwuachi and Vakiner into a meeting and told them he was closing Shaw Bijou, effective immediately. Gorsuch and the other principal investor Glenn Paik could no longer afford to keep the place running.

Neither Onwuachi nor Vakiner could be reached for comment.

“[The restaurant] bled too much, at too much of a clip, to be able to salvage it,” says Gorsuch, the president of Gorsuch Holdings, a company that operates upscale salons and other luxury brands. “It just cost a lot of money. It was a very expensive business. I’ve never quite seen that in business at all. That was new for me. The numbers were staggering.”

The closing of Shaw Bijou, first reported by Washingtonian, brings an abrupt end to a restaurant that endured wild mood swings before it served a single meal. Even before appearing on “Top Chef,” where he finished sixth out of 17 contestants last year, Onwuachi was a hot commodity. He not only had a compelling back story, but he also had an impressive run with Dinner Lab, a series of pop-up dinners in which the chef consistently impressed diners. Onwuachi’s appearances on “Top Chef” only contributed to the buzz around the young cook, even though he had never run his own restaurant or managed a kitchen.

The hype took a turn in August when Onwuachi and his team announced the price tag of their 13-course tasting menu, which would take diners on a journey through a converted townhouse. It wasn’t long before Washingtonians realized that dinner for two at Shaw Bijou could top out at $1,000, immediately making it one of the most expensive restaurants in the city. Diners couldn’t understand how someone with such a thin resume could compete with the likes of José Andrés, Eric Ziebold and Aaron Silverman.

When Shaw Bijou opened on Nov. 1, the early reviews were mixed. In his First Bite review, The Post’s Tom Sietsema enjoyed several of his savory courses but found the desserts fell flat. More dispiriting, the critic realized that after dropping $500 per person on the meal, he was still hungry. Washingtonian gave the place two stars in a review that couldn’t make sense of the story that Onwuachi was trying to weave.

Two months into its existence, Shaw Bijou slashed its prices and its offerings: Onwuachi rolled out a seven-course, $95 tasting menu on Jan. 3. The chef also offered up a little humble pie. “Humility creeps up on you when least expected,” Onwuachi noted in a letter. “The opening of this restaurant has taught us just that.”

But Gorsuch says it was too little, too late.

“I think all business is difficult. You have to be able to move and change and adapt quickly, especially when you’re starting out,” Gorsuch says. “It wasn’t happening. It wasn’t where it needed to be.”

The owner says he had been trying for weeks to convince Onwuachi and Vakiner to change the concept, but he says he couldn’t convince them.

“I think the biggest problem here, from the get, was that we were not listening to the guests,” Gorsuch says. “We spent two years working on this thing . . . I don’t care what the industry is, you put your people first and you care about the guests and you care about the details. . . I mean, numbers can be tweaked. You can cut things, but you have to have those elements.”

Gorsuch says he had spent most of Sunday trying to find jobs for the servers, cooks and bartenders at Shaw Bijou. The owner wasn’t as concerned about the chef and general manager. The longtime friends, who first met while attending the Culinary Institute of America, will probably find a new home soon, Gorsuch says.

“They’ll be fine,” the owner says. Onwuachi “had tons of offers before us.”

Gorsuch says this experience has shaken him. He’s never closed a business before. “This is probably the roughest week I’ve ever had,” he says.

But more than that, Gorsuch is upset by the lost opportunity. He says he believed in the team behind Shaw Bijou. He thought they could have pulled off the concept with proper oversight.

“The game plan was always to be super innovative,” Gorsuch says. “For all the things we did wrong, the talent that was in that building was special.”

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2017 in American Greed, Great American Rip-Off, Men

 

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From Rags to Riches…To Rags

Met Rodney the first time at a high-end luxury car dealership, where I was having the venerable sports car I owned at the time serviced. There are a group of guys living in the Va suburbs who love exotic sports cars, antique cars, and cars they have fixed up themselves from not so glorious names as Ferrari or McLaren, who uhhhh…kinda illegally race along some of the rural roads about 30 miles out from the City. On any Sunday morning you can find guys with anything from a new or aged Mustang up to a $3 million Bugatti raring to go down the curvy foothill roads.

I was looking at an Aston Martin DB9 (and looking is the operative word here,, as I couldn’t afford it, and two if I could I couldn’t see throwing that type of money on the floor for a car.) He was looking at a Mercedes McLaren – which got up in the million dollar range with markup. I knew of him from a cousin who raced a race prepped Lotus in that group. Rodney had made a lot of money on the Iraq War, supplying security personnel to guard Americans in the country. The most successful and infamous of the groups who did that was Blackhawk. Rodney’s company wasn’t too far behind.

He was there to buy a Mercedes McLaren SLS, which at that time was one of the 3 or 4 fastest cars  in the world at that time. In talking, it was fairly obvious he had no experience in that sort of car. He wanted to buy it basically to impress people. I suggested that driving that beast at anywhere near its capabilities took a driver with Formula One racing skills. At his request I went out on a test drive (the Dealership guy drove it, as I knew it was beyond my skills on any public street). The gearing in the car is set up for the track – not daily commuting. Coming out of second at 80 Mph with a top end over 200 Mph or better, with a 0-60 time in 3 seconds ain’t your mamma’s Honda. Suggested he buy the Mercedes SLS AMG, which is set up to operate on the streets and you could dial down the power. A  third to half of the price. About this time they brought out my aged toy from the early 70’s from service, and I left. No idea which he bought.

The neighborhood he built his house is in has several extremely wealthy luminaries. On is Steve Case, AOL founder. I grew up in the town the property is located in (a much, much poorer part). The property some years ago was part of the Bouvier estate (As in Jackie Kennedy).

Hunt is not in position anymore to pay either the mortgage (around $100,000 a month), or even the electric bill to keep this place lit.

Man who built a $24 million mansion along Potomac River loses battle to keep it

Rodney P. Hunt, a once-rich-but-now-bankrupt government contracting titan, is losing his beloved $24 million mansion turned party house on the banks of the Potomac River.

On Tuesday, an Arlington County judge granted possession of the home to a firm managed by Jeong Kim, a former president of Bell Labs and a co-owner of Verizon Center, the Washington Wizards and the Washington Capitals.

Kim’s company, 201 Chain Bridge LLC, bought the 20,000-square-foot property earlier this summer after it had been sold at a foreclosure auction. But Hunt, still in bankruptcy proceedings, resisted relinquishing his trophy home, claiming the foreclosure auction was illegitimate.

In a bizarre hearing at Arlington County General District Court, the former multimillionaire served as his own attorney. Hunt, 56, told Judge R. Frances O’Brien that another entity, Crown Properties LLC, was the real owner and agreed to lease the home back to him in May, a month before the house was auctioned. He said he was providing technology consulting to another firm, Legal Investment Group, which was paying his rent to Crown Properties.

Hunt’s sudden claims — he never discussed these companies in his pretrial defense filings or pretrial hearings — prompted Kim’s attorney, Leon Koutsouftikis, to question the authenticity of those firms.

“I think he’s committing a fraud in this court. It’s ridiculous,” Koutsouftikis told O’Brien.

“I have not committed a fraud in this court,” Hunt countered.

The judge was skeptical. “I think there are issues of credibility,” she said, before ruling in favor of Kim.

For years, Hunt has been beset by legal and financial problems. He founded RS Information Systems in 2003 and built it into one of the country’s most prominent black-owned government contracting firms. By 2006, he finished building his Mediterranean-style home, which boasts a basketball court, a 15-space underground parking garage and five bedrooms. It was once featured on “MTV Cribs” and was known on social media as #RHPmansion.

The home’s size and location — around the corner from tech entrepreneur Steve Case and down the street from the CIA — symbolized Hunt’s perch atop Washington’s hierarchy.

In 2007, the year he sold his IT contracting company to a California aerospace firm, Northern Virginia Magazine estimated his net worth at $265 million.

But soon, Hunt began piling up astronomical debts. By 2012, Bank of America said Hunt had defaulted on a $9.4 million loan on the mansion. Court records also showed that he racked up more than $10 million on unpaid loans and shoddy business deals.

Last year Hunt filed for bankruptcy, citing debts between $10 million and $50 million. One creditor, a Texas woman, alleges in his bankruptcy court documents that Hunt raped her in July 2009 at a Houston hotel and owes her more than $600,000 in court-ordered judgments stemming from a settlement in a civil suit she had filed against him. Hunt has denied the assault accusations in court, saying the woman was trying to extort money from him so that eventually he would settle to avoid tainting his reputation.

On June 16, Hunt’s mansion was sold in one of the largest foreclosure sales in the region’s history, for $7.3 million to an entity called GREI LLC, whose managing member is Alasgar Farhadov, a Realtor in Northern Virginia. Then, in July, Farhadov transferred his company’s interest in the house to 201 Chain Bridge LLC, the firm managed by Kim.

Hunt has been living on the property “on and off” since July, according to his close friend and business associate Danny Jones.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2016 in American Greed

 

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More People Dying From Heroin Overdose Than Murder by Gun!

Check this out…

OF course the majority (by a pretty good margin) of these deaths are of white people living in the suburbs and rural areas…So unlike the “crack epidemic” there isn’t going to be any push to criminalize.

Yet another reason the “War on Drugs” has been an utter and complete failure.

Heroin deaths surpass gun homicides for the first time, CDC data shows

Opioid deaths continued to surge in 2015, surpassing 30,000 for the first time in recent history, according to CDC data released Thursday.

That marks an increase of nearly 5,000 deaths from 2014. Deaths involving powerful synthetic opiates, like fentanyl, rose by nearly 75 percent from 2014 to 2015.

Heroin deaths spiked too, rising by more than 2,000 cases. For the first time since at least the late 1990s, there were more deaths due to heroin than to traditional opioid painkillers, like hydrocodone and oxycodone.

In the CDC’s opioid death data, deaths may involve more than one individual drug category, so numbers in the chart above aren’t mutually exclusive. Many opioid fatalities involve a combination of drugs, often multiple types of opioids, or opioids in conjunction with other sedative substances like alcohol.

In a grim milestone, more people died from heroin-related causes than from gun homicides in 2015. As recently as 2007, gun homicides outnumbered heroin deaths by more than 5 to 1.

These increases come amid a year-over-year increase in mortality across the board, resulting in the first decline in American life expectancy since 1993.

 

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2016 in American Genocide, American Greed

 

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Carrier Employees Pissed Over Trump Lies

About those 1100 American jobs the Chumph lied about…

 

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Casino Refuse to Pay Out to Winner

Never been much of a gambler. Other than the occasional lottery ticket when the jackpot hits $500 million – it just isn’t something I am attracted to.

However, being an engineer and tinkerer at heart, who loves learning how things work, I know a bit of how slot machines work, and how they are controlled by the Casino to regulate payouts to maintain the standard house cut. The odd in a casino are set in such a way that the house always maintains a  8-17% cut of all slot machine games. Penny Slots can be as high as 30% In other words the odds of winning are juggled electronically so the house “wins” a steady percentage of the money bet. Meaning about 85% of the money bet goes into “payouts” to the customers. Non-electronic games, Blackjack, Baccarat , Roulette have rules which favor the house winning. Generally if the payout is very high, the chance of winning is very low.

It is bad business not to pay out, as the sight of someone “winning” tends to drive customers to spend more.

So this one, and the “house rules” are definitely …”Bad Business”.

This woman hit a $42.9 million jackpot — but the casino refuses to pay

 

Katrina Bookman (Facebook)

A woman in New York who won nearly $43 million from a slot machine in August was sad to see her wins disappear before her eyes almost immediately, WABC reports.

Katrina Bookman hit the jackpot at the Resorts World Casino in August, but when she came back to collect her winnings the next day, a casino representative told her that she hadn’t actually won.

The machine apparently malfunctioned. While Bookman wasn’t able to walk away with the nearly $43 million, the Casino did offer her a steak dinner.

A notice on the slot machines states, “Malfunctions void all pays and plays.” However, Bookman and her attorney Alan Ripka both believe that she should be offered the maximum amount of money an individual can win on the Sphinx slot machine, which is $6,500.

“They win and the house doesn’t want to pay out. To me that’s unfair,” Ripka said. “The machine takes your money when you lose. It ought to pay it when you win.”

The New York State Gaming Commission says Bookman is only entitled to her winnings, or $2.25. Bookman plans to sue the casino.

The machine she used was reportedly removed, fixed, and then put back for use.

The question here is…If the slot is broken – does the Casino compensate those who have lost money on that broken machine?

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2016 in American Greed

 

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Stop and Frisk Scam on Amtrak

One of the things which I believe should be on everyone’s “Bucket List”, if you can beg, borrow, or steal a way to pay for it is to take one of the few remaining Great Train trips in the US. If you are willing to go to Canada, there are still a number of unbelievable Trans-Canada, Rockies, and Northern excursions.

The last of the great trains in the US is the California Zephyr linking the Windy City and the west coast, the daily two-night California Zephyr is Amtrak’s longest route at 2,438 miles. It cuts right across the center of the US, traversing cornfields, cattle country and the Great Plains before climbing great S- and U-shaped curves to reach the Continental Divide inside the six-mile-long Moffat Tunnel at 9,239 feet above sea level and the highest point reached by an Amtrak train.

You cross the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, follow the Colorado River for more than 200 miles, cross the Oregon Trail, touch the old Rock Island Line immortalized by Lead Belly and Johnny Cash and pass the wooden covered bridges featured in the film The Bridges of Madison County.

As a train buff, I have done the Zephyr , the Sky Chief (LA to Chicago), The Crescent (NYC to New Orleans), The Great Northern, and the Empire Builder (Chicago to Seattle). Fun…fun…fun!

Apparently the local Police (at least on the Zephyr) have taken to harassing the passengers and absconding with their money.

Image result for california zephyr in rockies

The Dangers of Going West on Amtrak

Another traveler reports being harassed by police officers on the California Zephyr.

Due to high costs and low ridership, Amtrak loses money on the California Zephyr, the passenger train that traverses a picturesque route from Chicago to the Bay Area. Its balance sheet would improve if more people could be persuaded to buy tickets for a “Superliner Roomette,” where there’s a picture window to watch passing scenery, two fold-down beds, and private space to get a good night’s sleep.

But the few passengers who forgo a faster, cheaper flight, shelling out upwards of $800 in hopes of an unusually pleasant journey, are setting themselves up for unpleasantness: On the route, law-enforcement officers are prone to treating passengers who’ve done nothing wrong as suspects in the drug-trafficking business.

This harassment has been going on for years.

In previous articles, I’ve written about Joseph Rivers, a 22-year-old who boarded an Amtrak train with his life savings, only to have it seized by DEA agents with no evidence of any lawbreaking, forcing him to hire a lawyer to get back what was rightfully his. I’ve written about mathematician Aaron Heuser, who traveled aboard Amtrak around the time he left his job at the National Institutes of Health—near Reno, law-enforcement officers violated his rights and took money from his wallet. I’ve noted the ACLU’s work to document behaviors deemed “suspicious” on Amtrak trains:

Among them:

Unusual nervousness of traveler
Unusual calmness or straight ahead stare
Looking around while making telephone call(s)
Position among passengers disembarking (ahead of, or lagging behind passengers)
Carrying little or no luggage
Purchase of tickets in cash

Purchase tickets immediately prior to boarding
After publishing those stories, I received correspondence from other innocent people allegedly harassed by law enforcement on Amtrak trains, many on travel to California. And I’m sorry to report that despite my efforts to shed light on these abuses, and similar articles in other publications, I still receive new emails with the same old story.

The latest comes from Evan Rinehart, an engineer who lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. He recently took an Amtrak to Chicago without incident, save for chilly temperatures and a passenger seated beside him in coach whom he found unpleasant.

He decided to buy a private compartment for the rest of his journey west.

On the last morning of his trip, he wrote, he was prematurely awoken from the good night’s sleep he purchased at a premium. A plain-clothes police officer was knocking at his door.

“He asked if I was transporting large amounts of drugs, large quantities of currency, or illegal weapons. Obviously I said no, which was true,” he wrote. “Then he asked me about the purpose of my trip and how long I would be in San Francisco. I didn’t have much of a plan, but I told him I was visiting friends there, which was true. Then he wanted to search my luggage, all two small bags in the roomette, ‘with your permission of course, with you present.’ I knew that there needed to be a warrant to justify such an unreasonable search, but being intimidated as all hell I let him. When I backed into the hallway he introduced me to his partner who was standing some distance away who just stared at me the whole time.”
All this when at most the search would uncover an amount of drugs so tiny it could fit in two small travel bags. How would that change the drug scene in the Bay Area?

Most law-enforcement officials would consider this a non-incident: cops got consent for a search and found nothing at no cost beyond their time. In reality, these sorts of “nothing to see here” interactions unnerve people, spoil their journeys, and cause them to feel that they’ve been mistreated by their own government. The experience is only more galling when the public employees conducting the search adopt a hostile attitude, treating innocents like they are lying criminals.

The person who searched Rinehart’s bag started to engage him about what he had packed. “At one point he remarked that I didn’t have enough clothes with me for the length of my vacation, however long he thought that was,” the passenger recalled. “This remark pissed me off, but at the time I continued treating these guys like normal people hoping they would leave. As the train was getting ready to leave he abruptly ended the conversation, thanked me for being patient and they left.” Rinehart has been seeking a refund from Amtrak without success, complaining that his treatment aboard the train was “less than first class,” though he paid $917.

More troubling was what happened when he tried to file a complaint about the interaction with law enforcement. “Thinking these police may not have been real, I called Amtrak police to report suspicious circumstances,” he wrote. “Without confirmation that this was standard procedure, the operator suggested that I definitely should call Reno police to get the specific unit and reasons for being selected. So I called Reno police and the woman I talked to was quite unprofessional, also didn’t confirm that it was standard procedure, or seem to be concerned that I thought it might be fake police. Then she suggested I call internal affairs.”…More Here

 

 

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Speaking of Failing Systems

In Europe and probably China – the train system has a number of safety controls which prevent operators from…Driving a train into a platform. Or, as in the case of the wreck in Philadelphia last year, going around a turn at speeds in excess of what the train can handle.

This is all accomplished by the existence of a digital radio system, which monitors and manages the train for unsafe conditions.

The reason we don’t have this is in part the FCC, and in second part Congress, which is often paid by special interests to suppress technology.

So we just get along with what happened today…Again

So far in 2016 – 11 of the rail crashes in the entire world have been in the United States. That’s 22% of all the crashes.

Train Crashes Into Hoboken Terminal, Killing 1, Injuring Scores Of People

A commuter train in New Jersey crashed into Hoboken Terminal in New Jersey on Thursday morning, resulting in multiple injuries and visible structural damage.

One person was killed and at least 65 people were injured, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York. New Jersey transit officials said at least 100 people were hurt, Stephen Nessen of WNYC reports.

Joseph Scott, the CEO of Jersey City Medical Center, said the hospital had admitted some victims in critical or serious condition.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey told MSNBC and CNN shortly before noon Eastern that everyone trapped on the train has been rescued or removed, and that there was no indication that the crash was anything but an accident.

The train that crashed originated in Spring Valley, N.Y., and “collided with the platform” at Hoboken Terminal at around 8:45 a.m. Eastern, Cuomo said in a statement.

Nessen reports that passengers on from the train that crashed say it approached the station at “full speed” before slamming into the barrier at the end of the track, with the impact throwing riders onto the floor.

WNYC’s Nancy Solomon arrived on the scene shortly after the crash, and says she personally saw 20 to 30 injured people, including at least four who were unable to walk.

She says a train had traveled “all the way into the station — not into the waiting room but into the outdoor part where people transfer.”

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2016 in American Greed

 

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