Battle of the cowards, Part 2

March 29, 2018 § 8 Comments

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.



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The people police

May 24, 2016 § 28 Comments

John Bacon was killed on Wednesday, May 18, possibly by the white pickup truck that was caught on surveillance tape tailgating him. After what in polite company can only politely be called a “lackadaisical” response to what, on its surface, suggests the possibility of first degree murder, the Palos Verdes Estates Police Department sprang into action.

Just kidding.

They sat on their asses while local cyclists searched for, found, and reported a vehicle that closely matched the pickup on surveillance tape and perhaps more importantly, matched the driver described in the police All Points Bulletin. When another cyclist put in a WTF phone call about the police response, he was advised by Detective Hellinga that the driver who voluntarily came in with the vehicle didn’t match, and that there were “minor differences” in the two vehicles that definitively ruled it out.

The person who came in with the vehicle was Hispanic, not a heavyset white dude as described in the APB. However, the PV Irregulars had corralled the person who appeared to be the owner of the white pickup, who was indeed a heavyset white dude. It appears that the owner may have sent a friend down to the police station with his vehicle to throw them off the scent.

With regard to the “minor differences,” the PVE police advised that they consisted of running boards and tinted windows, neither of which were present on the surveillance video. As the driver of a 2007 Prius (point of personal shame) with 149,000 miles on it (point of personal cheapassedness) and a person with zero knowledge of or interest in car modifications (point of supreme pride), even I can tell you that window tinting and running boards can be slapped on in a couple of hours.

At this point the police had done no additional queries in the cycling community regarding basic, Cop 101 work such as asking The Most Basic Question Ever: “Have any of you spandex weirdos ever been harassed by a nutjob matching this car and description?”

The PV Irregulars, however, did. And what they got was an avalanche of responses. Numerous cyclists had indeed been assaulted by a heavyset white guy in a white four-door pickup. Some would call it coincidence. Some would call it irrelevant. Some would call it a silly lead. But any halfway competent cop would at least take the time to round up every single cyclist lead, bring them in, and interview them.

Remember, folks. Someone has just died, and he may have been murdered. In TV shows this where Columbo comes onto the scene. In PV Estates? If the victim is a cyclist, not so much.

By now a combination of bad press, terrible press, awful press, and downright hysterical press had moved the donuts over to the far corner of the conference table and forced the higher-ups at PVEPD to get to work, or at least a rough approximation of it, because local cyclists were informed of some key facts that you should take to the bank and remember for the rest of your life:

  1. You don’t have to wait to be contacted to make a report.
  2. You don’t have to have the cops’ authority to make a report.
  3. You can write your OWN report.
  4. The police have to take it.
  5. Just because you couldn’t identify the car or the driver doesn’t mean a crime hasn’t occurred, it just means it may not be solved. There are actually cases on record of crimes happening where the killer wasn’t caught!! And they’re still considered crimes!! Who knew? Cf. Jack the Ripper.
  6. “Buzzing,” “harassing,” and “threatening” a cyclist with a car, with the intent to cause injury, is a felony per People v. Wright, as it constitutes assault with a deadly weapon.

Fast forward to yesterday. One of the cyclists who had been assaulted on an earlier occasion by the mystery white pick-up went down to the PVEPD to report the crime. What she saw there was a thing of beauty: “The phones were ringing off the hook!” Cyclists were calling in like crazy, reporting the crimes committed against them (“White Prius just buzzed me on Via del Monte!”), in addition to the people who had shown up to report being assaulted by the mystery truck.

As a result of all this, the heavyset white dude who the PVEPD definitively ruled out as a suspect, then moved up to a “person of interest,” is now possibly, according to the police, going to find himself in a police line-up. Maybe in the interim someone will get around to carefully documenting the front and side of his vehicle, and having a collision reconstruction expert analyze John Bacon’s bike to see if there are any paint transfers or other marks that might show that the vehicle actually struck John. And a quick check on how recent the running boards and window tinting are wouldn’t be a total waste of time, either.

But hey, what do I know? We’re just a bunch of cyclists.



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