Battle of the cowards, Part 2

In the right-wing corner we have the good citizens of PV Estates, supporting Measure E and hoping like hell that the community will foot a tax increase allowing the city to keep its police department. In the ultra-right-wing corner we have the Worst Neighbor Ever a/k/a Robert Lewis Chapman, Jr. a/ka/ Ankur, opposing Measure E and hoping like hell that the community will shut down its police department and obtain law enforcement services through an allegedly cheaper contract with Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

But who are these two opponents?

The tattle-tale of the tape

It’s my opinion that Chapman is the person behind the Bluff Cove Homeowner’s Association, a “group” whose membership, directors, bylaws, or actual existence as a bona fide HOA I’ve been unable to conclusively determine. It’s certainly not listed as a corporation with the California Secretary of State, however, unincorporated HOA’s are also allowed under California law. The fact that Bluff Cove may simply be a #fakeHOA doesn’t mean that its goals aren’t legitimate. It’s possible that the best option for cyclists riding through PV Estates is the elimination of the police department and having the laws enforced by the sheriff’s department.

Simply because “Ankur” (better yet, “Stinkur) is the World’s Worst Neighbor doesn’t mean he’s wrong about Measure E. In fact, social gadflies all the way back to Socrates have been shunned and put to death for supporting unpopular ideas. As repulsive as Stinkur may be, and even though hiring LASD may be his worst nightmare if it ever comes to pass, his idea should be evaluated on the merits and not rejected out of hand simply because he’s the abominable next door neighbor from the planet Crapulon.

Stinkur’s race resume

At the same time, it pays to know with whom you’re dealing, and Stinkur has left a trail of Internet rubble ten miles wide. By understanding his tactics, mindset, and psychology, everyone benefits.

Let’s start with the basics. What does Chapman do for a living? He buys and sells stocks. Based on the information I’ve been able to glean, he does it very, very well. Although he’s a fourth-string scrub, more of a palm frond fund than a hedge fund compared to his idol Carl Icahn, a fourth-rate scrub lugging dirty jockstraps in the stock market world is still an incredibly smart and successful person. And note this: No one gave Chapman his financial success. He took it.

Among his successes was his assault on Vitesse Semiconductor Corp., where he correctly identified poor management and made activist-investor history by applying pressure on the Vitesse board through the use of the mandatory 13-D filing. This arcane SEC regulatory scrap of paper allows you to attach exhibits, which Chapman did to great effect by writing nasty, insulting letters and appending them to the 13-D form. In the staid world of finance, Chapman’s vituperative, arrogant, and personal attacks made waves. It’s a trait that served him well then, and a style that appears throughout the PV Estates attack web site that sure looks, sounds, and smells like Chapman’s handiwork.

Here are a few samples of Chapman’s filings with the SEC. You’ll need to scroll down to the bottom to read the exhibits, which are copies of letters written by Stinkur. My favorite line in the American Properties Trust filing is where Chapman reports that he was called a “fucking pain in the ass.”

In re: American Communities Property Trust (1)
In re: American Communities Property Trust (2)
In re: American Communities Property Trust (3)
In re: American Communities Property Trust (4)

Unfortunately, Chapman’s graphomania will get the better of you. It will beat you down into a sobbing, convulsing mash of neurons because these are only the tip of the iceberg. By using the SEC’s EDGAR search service you can pull up all of his filings, many of which were under the hilariously named “Chap-Cap” fund, imagery which makes me think of a short, tubby, bald little man waddling around with a stick wearing nothing but a pair of fake leather chaps.

But as satisfying as it is to poke fun at his grammar flubs, extra spacing, commas in the wrong place, run-on sentences, tired cliches, impressively uninventive insults, and generally awful prose, his writing reveals a lot. First, he’s smart. Second, pounding away at the keyboard is more than a tool for berating the PV Estates locals: It’s his job, which means he makes money at it. Third, he succeeded in finance by poking people in the eye. Don’t think for a moment that any amount of abuse, name-calling, or proportionate responses will calm him down. He was born angry and mean, and that’s how he’ll die. Pity the woman he calls wife and the child he calls daughter, is all I can say.

Reading a few paragraphs of Chapman’s indiscriminate spleen, whether directed at the director of a big company or some middle-class working man just trying to get by, you might get the idea that he’s a raging lunatic. Reality check: He’s not raging. This 2017 telephone interview on CNBC investing reveals anything but the timbre of a crazy person. (If you’re wondering why he chose to do the interview by phone, it’s possible that someone told him not to ever show up again in public wearing this thrift-store necktie and floppy garbage sack of a suit.) To the contrary, his cool, collected, informed, and intelligent observations create a trainwreck of contrast if all you’re accustomed to are his volcanic sewage vents on the Internet. And buried in the interview he reveals the working of his psyche: He loves opposing people, but you gotta have sound analysis.

This bodes poorly for the PV Estates denizens trying to keep their police department on life support. Chapman may truly be “Stinkur, the World’s Worst Neighbor.” But if you don’t think he has arrayed a solid and defensible set of facts, you had better redo your homework assignment. Chapman’s analysis of the attempted takeover of Herbalife was spot on, and we can assume he had at least fifty bucks on the line. What makes you think his analysis of Measure E is any less considered?

The qualities that make Chapman a good investor–solitary, introverted, bad people skills, highly mathematical–are ones that make him a flop of a corporate manager. In his brief stint as CEO at EDCI Holdings, he started off with Trumpian grandiosity, bragging that “As CEO, my primary goal is to lead EDCI’s transition into a respected, fairly valued public company by prudently and diligently applying all or part of its approximately $50 million in holding company cash towards the equity component of a small capitalization acquisition.” A couple of months later, the company was liquidating.

What does it all mean for Measure E?

The problem with Chapman’s race resume, of course, is that he has excelled in investing and therefore thinks that his intelligence and judgment automatically transfer into local politics. He may be right. Attack dog methods, smearing opponents, incorrectly citing the law, creating the illusion of organization, and relentlessly pummeling inboxes and chat rooms with thousands and thousands of words could well be what seals the deal. In any municipal tax fight, the winners are usually punishing and loud.

On the other hand, it could well backfire. Chapman writes a lot, but he writes badly. He lacks humility even in parts per trillion, and as soon as he veers away from finance he comes across as more blibber-blabber than savant.

Fortunately, my public records request resulted in hundreds of pages of emails relating to Chapman and Measure D, the predecessor to Measure E. So there’s plenty to analyze. When it comes to paying more taxes for anything, it’s hard to see a snobby enclave like PV Estates assenting to it. But when it comes to living with anything less than on-demand law enforcement against outsiders, especially those who are black, non-white, or poor, it’s equally hard to see PV Estates voting away their cop shop.

Irresistible force, meet immovable object, so pull up a ringside chair. The price of a bag of of popcorn in PV Estates is about to go up.

END

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8 thoughts on “Battle of the cowards, Part 2”

  1. I like reading all your stuff, but, though I have no skin in this game, I really like the local politics posts. Very interesting. Thanks

    So are you pro or against Measure E?

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