SocraticGadfly: 10/8/17 - 10/15/17

October 13, 2017

Who is Alan Smithee, aka Actual Flatticus?
(The dead and deified god of a cult)

NOTE and BACKGROUND: This blog post, in its original core of reflections about who prolific Tweeter Actual Flatticus by handle, Alan Smithee by sign-in, was, was written four months or more before the death of Flatticus, known in real life as Christopher Chopin (newspaper version of obit here), and worshiped by many on Twitter as a demigod. It has been updated in part to reflect some past history of his that is FAR more disturbing than his Twitter history, but certainly lies behind it. Post has been further updated with additional discoveries about his family that have high relevance to his Twitter history AND to the why behind his Twitter history. The original post was written four months ago, when he blocked me on Twitter, after I actually followed his "investigate what I say" schtick and showed him wrong, later discovering I was far from alone in running into a person who, while sharp-minded, was obstinate, even cantankerous at times, who refused to lose, or accept losing, arguments, to the point of bullying, apparent misogyny, and possible condescension to minorities.

I largely reworked it in the first week after his death after gathering the bulk of information that I found out about Flatty before I ran into him on Twitter, let alone before I made the decision to follow/friend him early in 2017. I will have occasional updates after the end of October, should anything significant cross my timeframe, including any tips coming to investigative journalist Greg AtLast, who has started beating the bushes. Other than that, I will likely simply focus on rearranging flow, addition of Twitter tidbits, etc.

The primary purpose, as the original purpose before Chopin's death, is not to smear him. It is to awaken groupies of him who choose to be awakened. It is to steer other people away from becoming, even after his death, groupies of a quasi-cult or groupies of its leaders. There's plenty of honest information about him without "smearing." With that, let's dig in. After his family, we'll look at his cult, some sidebars to that, my personal history with Flatty, his pre -nternet politics gurudom life story and how it may explain his background and more.


Chris Chopin's father was rich enough and connected enough to be personal friends of Henry Ford II. (The L. Frank Chopin is his dad, per obit.) And more! That puts his felonious road rage (below) into further perspective. Chopin had a sense of entitlement a mile wide, I bet.

(And, speaking of felonious? Let's not forget that, while Hank the Deuce was running Ford, under Argentina's military dictatorship, per Jacobin, Ford Argentina was torturing Argentinian unionists.)

Note that this feud over the Deuce's trust was when our man Flatticus was just 12 years old. Daddy's relationship with Hank the Deuce seems to have been pretty well established. The trust was drawn up some time before Hank died in 1987, so Daddy Chopin knew him well when Chris was just in single digits.

In other words, per where L. Frank lives today, and possibly then, Allen J. Flatticus was born with a fair-sized silver spoon in his mouth. With his dad as a tax attorney to the rich and famous, he surely was and has been raking, and also knew how to hide much of the rake on his own 1040s.

And this subplot gets more fun in and of itself.

Apparently daddy Chopin, acting on behalf of Kathleen Ford several years later, after she'd been robbed of jewels, tried to stiff informants when they wanted reward money. And that wasn't a first, either, apparently. Daddy Chopin, per the link above this, apparently tried to stiff Hank the Deuce's kids out of some of their inheritance, serving as mouthpiece for Kathleen, the Deuce's third wife.

Per the Daily Mail, THAT stiffing the kids, or stepkids, was still in the news just a year ago. (And, you can find other links if you don't like the tabloid Daily Mail.) In fact, L. Frank formed a corporation with Kathleen. You can't make this stuff up!

Per photos I've seen, I wouldn't be too surprised if Frank were maybe, uh, "personally friendly" with Kathleen, either.

L. Frank Chopin with The Donald and unhappy but money-dreaming Melania
Oh, and here's his dad's rich oceanside neighborhood. Which apparently is NOT far from Mar-A-Lago of Donald Trump fame, given this article where Daddy Chopin ran flak against Trump. That said, six months earlier than that, Daddy Chopin, as legal voice for the Palm Beach Preservation Foundation, was leading the tussle with Trump.

But, that flak didn't last forever. After lawsuit threats and check-cutting, Daddy Chopin, per a comment last year, found out that Chopin was just all right with Trump. Per the photo at right, very much just all right.

And, that tussle ended with Trump getting what turned out to be a huge IRS loophole, per a December 2017 investigation by the Palm Beach Post. Trump played the locals and even today, barely meets (if at all) the letter and not the spirit of the easement requirement.

And, it was Republicans in general with the dad. In 2015, on Jeb Bush's Palm Beach County campaign team.

Dad's specialty is tax law. He is still active, it seems, and has a business address, but no website.


Daddy Chopin was giving money to PACs! $12,500 to the Right to Rise PAC in 2015-16 cycle. And, Daddy Chopin was wingnut enough to give Allen West $500 in 2010. Sexting sleaze Mark Foley got $500 in 2006. A cool $1,000 for the Bush for President PAC in the 1999-2000 cycle. Hack Congressional candidate and fellow (West) Palm Beach lawyer Jim Stuber got love in 1994.

Per Funky Chicken on Twitter, I would think THAT would be more a heartbreaker than the Trump love. After all, the money to Jeb's PAC was in 2015, before Daddy Chopin decided to become another truckler to Trump. Chicken, as of mid-afternoon Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, has yet to answer how heartbreaking it was for Flatty to see his sister as a lobbyist, and a media spin doctor before that.


Per his obit, turns out the Republicans still liked Flatty. One memorial at the online obit:
We already miss your wit and patriotic dedication
Randi, and the rest of the West Palm Beach Republican Executive Committee
Just in case you don't believe me, this Tweet preserves that.

I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but, a piece like that? Make it look like he was a Cold War era double agent. I mean, it looks more and more like Bernie-or-Trump self-promoting windbag H.A. Goodman is something like that. Flatty as far more connected could have done that easily.

Besides, Flatty said:
All posts are satirical and/or in the nature of parody. Nothing posted should ever be believed by anyone, ever, at any time, for any reason.
And, riffing on that, that may have applied to his own comments about the system. How do you know he wasn't taking a bunch of people for a ride as much as being a true believer? I doubt it, but ... his first sentence? He put it there and he left it there.

That would include him saying that both he and his dad wrote in Donald Duck, for president, I guess. That's even though he claims to be a leftist. I guess we can call Flatty a slacktivist. Another: per this exchange, Flatty WAS, if not "All" talk, more talk than deeds.

 My original updates, in the first weeks and month or two after his death, were topped by this special update of Dec. 1, 2017. It starts with this Tweet, from ShirtLost DumbShit Zack Haller, who responded to by Man from Atlantis (who lies in claiming I doxxed Chris), in essence says that the Church of Flatticus is being founded on Twitter. It specifically cites family involvement, which would be his lobbyist and political media flack sister, Alexandra Chopin (Wise.)  I have posted a screengrab in case that Tweet is hauled down or your account is blocked. (I will give credit where credit is due to note that, per comments, Atlantis was the first to tell me Flatty's real name.)

I found her, shortly after his death, on LinkedIn and company website, based on facial features and her getting her undergrad and law degrees both at Chris's undergrad alma mater, Emory.

And the irony, or "something," gets even BIGGER.

She's a lawyer for Squire Patton Boggs, per the "company website" link. A PARTNER, no less! Yes, THAT Patton Boggs. White shoe law firm to the DC insider grifters. Per Wiki, it's the third-largest lobbying firm in the US! And, it says she has past experience with political campaign media, too. That's why I've already called her a "media spin doctor."
Update, Dec. 21, 2023: Six-plus years later, I've heard nothing on the possible monetization of his Twitter feeds or anything else. Sis is still at Patton Boggs.

(Tidbit update, Oct. 6, 2018: Exactly whatever her experience is, the campaign work was for big ones: Georgia Gov. Zell Miller and Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. Both Dems. This further undercuts claims, see below, by Flatty fans that he had to "lay low" because of fear of his dad, fear of losing his dad's money, etc.)

And, this is the sister of Flatty, the attacker of campaign finance and hater of corruption.

Given that she appeared to be running his Twitter account after he died and before it was frozen, and is working with professional IT type people, it increases my suspicion level, and further makes me wonder just how much of a Dem sheepdogger, or even agent provacateur, Flatty was. The fact that this is released as an "official family statement" is another eyebrow-raiser.

Flatty was, either despite or because of his family history, very thought provoking and usually very, very sharp on issues of campaign finance, both soft money and dark money. However, outside of that and single-payer national health care, he wasn't necessarily that deep on other major liberal issues, let alone left-liberal and beyond. (And, I had months of observation of him interacting with other Twitter friends before I followed him myself for several months.) He also got things wrong, sometimes even closer within his core areas of expertise. My biggest argument with him, before the one over Jane Sanders for which he blocked me, was on the Emoluments Clause.

Had I known about his aggravated assault with a firearm arrest four months before I started this initial post, of course I would have written about it then. That said, as with Christopher Hitchens becoming a neocon, has a person's death magically changed anything about the last months before they died — or the last years, if it had carry-over effects to the last months?


I misstated earlier about Flatty's contributions or lack thereof. I was just searching the 2017-18 cycle, I think. I've redone my searches. $86 to Act Blue in 2015-16. Three $27 donations plus a $5. $2.70 to Bernie Act Blue in another donation; late night blogging error. Act Blue is a PAC. (And, per that Wiki link, Act Blue is even open to 501(c)4 groups. Dark money as well as soft! And, less than a year later, Flatty called all Dems corrupt. Per his Twitter precis, the donations could themselves be parody, one might argue. And, I'd reply that lighting money on fire for parody, unless he had daddy Frank's money to burn, is kind o dumb itself.)

And, I ran into another Flatty groupie on Twitter. I know how Act Blue works, dude. It's still a PAC, and it's still open to c(4) groups. Just as I've donated money either directly to the Green Party or to Jill Stein, Flatty could have done one or the other of those.

But didn't. Yes, it's not the worst of PACs, but it is, by definition, a PAC. And, it takes a 4 percent surcharge for the privilege of filtering your donation when you could just visit the candidate's website.

And, given that Act Blue takes (c)4 money, one could argue — and I will argue — that Flatty was condoning such behavior. Suck it, muted groupie.


Damn, what we have, I think, otherwise, is an acorn that didn't fall far from the tree. Including that road rage violence below, at the "AN ANGRY MAN."

Now, some of the groupies will insist this is why Smithee had to stay anonymous. (This is in reference to Roger Riga, aka "Lawyer Killer" right now, on Twitter, having talked about doxxing a few days before Chopin's death. A couple of other people in his circle also appear to have mentioned doxxing.

Besides that, as @SocialistTaco mentions in this so-so to OK Medium piece about Smithee's death? He doxxed himself. He had originally been on Twitter by name, apparently (he started in 2008) and didn't object when, with his pipe and other stuff, he was occasionally referenced on Twitter by name.

What? The braggart bully was afraid of his rich parents and their rich friends? Afraid they'd cut off his inheritance like his daddy did to Hank the Deuce's kids?

So, the "yah but" "yah but" "yah but" chatter? Can it.

You make me laugh if you think Smithee the cyberbully was in reality Chris Chopin the titty baby.

Chris Chopin could have further developed his own law firm if the parental gravy train was cut off. He was still a lawyer with many clients, and quite possibly a very good lawyer overall. Maybe go into tax law on his own, like dad.

In other words, if he really wanted to move himself away from the family tree, he could have done a lot more than he actually did, and with his actual name. Besides, per his snooty appreciation for certain pipes in certain Manhattan restaurants, even family law pays big bucks when the divorcees are Fords or Pulitzers or other gold-plated people of the Gold Coast.

I mean, I wrote a newspaper column about being an atheist, after graduating from my dad's divinity school AND having the honesty and integrity not to become a minister myself. (And, yes, there are atheists in pulpits as well as in foxholes.)

And, looking at his own website, I say "snooty" deliberately. How many lawyers (and a great many would qualify) put "Mensa member" on their websites?

Besides, Mensa membership — and Mensa as a group — is vastly overrated. If having an IQ of 130 can't prevent you from believing in astrology — and yes, Mensa has astrology groups within its many subgroups — it's really not a whole lot of fucking good, is it? Second, there are higher-IQ societies than Mensa. (Mensa's cutoff is the 98th percentile of IQ scores. In plainer English, that means if everybody wanted to join Mensa, 2 percent of America is eligible. In other words, it's not THAT big of a deal. (And maybe, to snarkily riff on income inequality, we can call Flatty a "2 percenter"?)

I guess "privilege" was just too tempting, mainly financially, but also in other ways. (I don't write blank checks to the social justice movement, but I most certainly don't reject it out of hand.)


Flatticus/Smithee on Twitter liked to tell people never to believe what he said, but check it out for themselves.

Unfortunately, that was a schtick with him, not reality, as noted above. Albeit a schtick that, even after his death, is being repeated as gospel by his groupies. And, yes, that's what you are, if you're accepting his claim uncritically and/or if you accepted everything he said uncritically.

Indeed, the asshole specifically said he never lost arguments. And, folks, THAT is why he blocked some people, like me. It was after he DID lose an argument and he couldn't stand it. (And yes, when things, not just with me, but with others, especially minorities and women, seemed to reach the point that he was indeed going to lose, he usually became an asshole.)

Smithee, that is, Chris Chopin, and I got in a long argument over Jane Sanders' ongoing federal investigation, and he blocked me. I told that to Kevin Sarpei in a comment on his Medium piece, too. (As part of not thinking past "liberal," I could tell that his mind simply refused to move beyond the Democratic half of the duopoly box. More on that below.)

That was after a shorter argument about whether or not the Emoluments Clause applies to presidents. It does, contra his claims, as I document in detail. And, he got kind of ANGRY (all caps necessary) over that. Per his obit, him being a lawyer may be part of why he got fairly angry in debate over it, along with being a champion debater. It was angry enough that I didn't knock that link into a final blog post until I was thinking about unfriending him, before he blocked me.

And, it goes along with me not calling him out for a link that he used to demean Democracy Now's Amy Goodman as a money-grubber who allegedly made $1 million a year when her show was spun off from Pacifica. It may or may not be correct; in any case, per The Nation, her pay and sidebar moneys were mutually negotiated. Also, the source is biased, having previously sued WBAI.

(My closest friend on Facebook, whom I'd trust far more than Flatty on a broader variety of issues, pointed out on FB that Flatty was wrong on this issue when he cited Educate-Yourself as his source. In 2024, clicking that link anew? Amy Goodman "leftist propaganda"? AND, NObody's salary is tax free.  And that also shows that Chopin, while very well informed on the narrow areas of dark and soft money, and pretty darned well informed on broader campaign finance issues, could be and was in error willful self-delusion on broader issues of political influence. MediaBias FactCheck calls Educate-Yourself as being in "tin foil hat" land on conspiracy theories AND "quackery" in pseudoscience.)

And, the source has HUGE other problems. As in, it's from a website anti-semitic enough to believe The Protocols of The Elders of Zion are "real," and conspiracy-thinking enough to believe in chemtrails, the New World Order, the Illuminati and all sorts of other shit. MBFC, linked above, notes its antisemitism levels.

He couldn’t stand Jill Stein, for whatever reason. Rather than pick something truly nutty, like her sexist Mother’s Day comment, rather, in my time w/him on Twitter, he picked on her idealism, saying she “declared war” on Saudi Arabia as his reference to her quite reasonable call for an embargo on arms sales to KSA. (This is one reason why I said above that he didn't seem to think that deeply outside dark money and national health care; certainly, I didn't hear deep thought from him on foreign policy issues, beyond the true enough "Hillary is a warmonger." He may have expressed it elsewhere, but not to me.)

Stein, of course, is Jewish. Looking at Educate-Yourself, did Chopin have some antisemitism Jones? I mean, look at daddy's ties. Pure WASP. And, yeah, Hank the Deuce wasn't Henry Ford, but who knows how much further that antisemitic strain ran in the Ford family?

Per comments below, sure, he would have been a nice "get" for supporting Greens. Even as a tactical vote option if he wouldn't fully support the party. But sorry, LeBeau, that wasn't going to happen in 2016, and likely wouldn't have happened in 2020. Even though he could have made a splash as a big fish in a small pond.

More Twitter evidence he hated the Green Party. And more here, though this, plus my interactions with him, make me wonder how much of this was Green Party hatred in general, and how much was misogyny toward Jill Stein as a female Green Party presidential candidate. (Or a Jewish one.)

Twitter also reminded me of the name Jay Sekulow. The many who Flatty laughably called a constitutional law scholar and meant it as a sincere take.

Update, Dec. 9, 2020: "Friendly" reminder that Sekulow is also a Seth Rich conspiracy theorist.  

Update, March 5, 2024: Sekulow may be Jewish by ethnicity (for what that may or may not mean, per the fact that, going back to the Maccabees, Judahites by religion converted people who were not Semites to their religion), but religiously? He's a Jews for Jesus type Christian.

SPECIAL UPDATE — FLATTY AND CONNECTIONS TO RUSSIAGATE:  Forensicator has been touted by a majority of Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (though by no means all) as offering proof that DNC emails had to have been directly downloaded, rather than hacked from abroad. However, if Computer Weekly is right, Forensicator is, at minimum, a front man for a British self-described black hat hacker and pro-Trumpist Tim Leonard / Adam Carter, if not actually BEING Leonard / Carter. And, Duncan Campbell says that Bill Binney, at least, within VIPS, flipped his stance on the "impossible to download internationally claims" after taking a second look at the files, with Campbell. But Binney claims that Campbell misinterprets him. But, Binney himself misinterprets the VIPS statement. Per the "minority report" linked above, it's clear that not all of VIPS accepted that this had to be a hack, not a download.

(Update, April 8, 2021: Until reading Glenn Greenwald's "No Place to Hide," I didn't know Campbell's background. Well, Duncan Campbell, as the man who first exposed the GCHQ by name and the "Five Eyes," knows his shit. As a man earlier targeted for prosecution under Britain's Official Secrets Act, he has no love lost for the national security state or its smears. So, his pronouncements, and his skill in getting the information, should be taken with the utmost seriousness.)

And, as for Disobedient Media lamenting a "smear" of Leonard/Carter? Good for the goose, good for the gander — Bill Binney apparently believes in microwave mind control weapons. And, the person whose show he is on thinks this is a plot to remove gun rights.)

And, per a Twitter screen grab? Flatty enters the scene, courtesy ShirtLost DumbShit Zach Haller.


Who is Smithee, in more detail?

I didn't think he was a troll per se at the time I originally wrote this post. That said, for him, every problem appeared to be not a nail, but a rock needing to be crushed by a sledgehammer. Given his "champion debater" background, this gained a LOT more clarity.

And ultimately, he left the feeling of a dull, throbbing toothache. I think he did know better, but this had been his modus operandi so long he doesn’t care. 

That said, again, he didn't like to be proven wrong, when he could be proven wrong, despite his calls for people to check out everything he says. Another way of putting this is “he’s got a mind like a steel trap” … and … no, it’s not rusted shut, per an old MASH joke. Rather, it’s a double spring-loaded, or pre-programmed, trap, or something like that. 

Turns out my guess that he was of retirement age was wrong. Per his obit, in comments below? Champion debater and lawyer don't surprise me at all. 

And surely it was the mix of being a lawyer and a champion debater, specifically noted in his obit that led to that intense animosity (no other word for it as I see it) about not wanting to lose. In other words, Twitter just increased his "I won't lose this debate" mindset, put it on steroids.

I mean, I can Tweet a fair amount, but Chris Chopin, in a typical day, would post 3x-4x the number of Tweets I did. And a lawyer, if he or she is driving a spiffy Mercedes, ain't working 40-hour weeks, either, but far more. That's why I originally thought he was a retiree. Since I know he wasn't, a volume that high instead leads me to at least entertain the possibility that multiple people were running the account or at least had feedback into it.

Anyway, having a real life name let me do teh Google.


The rage he showed on Twitter? At least at one time — I don't know about recently — was worse in real life.

Making the front page of the local section of the Palm Beach Post, a fair-sized seven-day daily newspaper, for a road rage incident? Having to post $100,000 bond to get out of the slammer?

The OCR recognition on isn't perfect, but, lest I be accused of tampering, I'll note any edits.
A 27-year-old lawyer was arrested after a midmorning road-rage incident in which he allegedly threatened the occupants of a pickup with a loaded handgun. Christopher Chopin, who practices family law with his mother, was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm. He was released Sunday after posting $ 100,000 bond. The episode occurred at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the intersection of Okeechobee Boulevard and South Dixie t Highway, according to police reports. Chopin, driving a 1996 Mercedes SL320, beeped his horn and shouted angrily at Francisco Rodriguez, who was driving a pickup when he stopped for a red light. Chopin pulled beside the pickup and seemed to be picking a fight, said Fernando Alvarez, a passenger in Rodriguez's truck. "He said, 'Get out of the car you old man!' " Alvarez said in an intyview. Sleuths go to great wavelengths to catch rogue radio stations his car. "I can't understand why he would have done something like this," Alvarez said Sunday. "Pulling a gun is uncalled for. He made the wrone choice."
I did a strikethrough of the one sentence because that's associated with another story. That's all I touched.

And, I hadn't originally seen it, but here's the jump page, it seems, on that story. Turns out Chopin pulled his gun on the wrong man!
Chopin pulled beside the pickup and seemed to be picking a fight, said Fernando Alvarez, a passenger in Rodriguez's truck. "He said, 'Get out of the car you old man!' " Alvarez said in an interview. Alvarez said Chopin then pulled a .45 caliber pistol and loaded a bullet in the chamber before pointing it at the truck. "Ill shoot your (expletive)," he allegedly told them before he sped off. Unknown to Chopin, Alvarez is a sheriffs deputy with 33 years of experience. Alvarez immediately called West Palm Beach police with a full description of Chopin and his car.

Just wow.  He surely pled guilty to something, but also surely to a lesser charge. I say pled to "something" because the Florida Bar disciplined him a year later.

In turn, now that I know, per my latest updates, how high-profile of a legal beagle his dad was already then, the fact that Chris Chopin got his hands slapped AT ALL means that this road rage with a pistol was surely at least as bad as the story portrays.

And OH SHIT! I not only found out what it was pled down to, but — years later — re the anger and the misogyny? Folks, it's out there. Domestic battery. Looks like it's just one case, with a re-entry of it and a typo. But, there it is.

(On Twitter, Lawyer Killer recently claimed that Flatty and his wife argued over his Twitter. He didn't say whether that was more recent, in early days, or what. Still, considering the arrest, and Flatty's start on Twitter, were both 2008, interesting. That said, I think he claimed the wife, not his sister, took over the account, which isn't true, unless she wrested control from his sister.)

I'm sorry to the sister who may still be monitoring his Twitter page, but per my original blog post that I thought people needed to know more about him? I did the "dot" tag in front of the "@" so it would get tracked. I wasn't attacking her. (That said, I'd never blocked him, even though he had blocked me.) And also, since I now know about Daddy Chopin, while I still feel sorry for their loss ... no, I don't feel quite as sorry as I did 24 hours ago.

I don't know if he showed that level of anger outside the Twitter world today as he did inside it. (He doesn't seem to have a Facebook page.) But, it wouldn't surprise me, even if any such anger level today in meatspace was still a couple of degrees below threatening a viejo. er, a deputy sheriff! with a pistol.

In short, for when I face the inevitable criticism, just as I did with more famous people like Chris Hitchens, I'll say "no, not too soon."

And, this Medium blog by Amy Casil notes that he came off as disrespectful to people of color. And it needs some quoting:
Some people haven’t said anything about Alan Smithee/Christopher Chopin because they are unable to say anything positive. Almost 100% of those people are people of color. 
 I don’t think Smithee had any idea that his very nature was uncommunicative with, noncomprehending of, and disrespectful toward the beliefs, concerns and experiences of people of color.
Actually, I halfway think that he may have had an idea that he was disrepectful, just like he had an idea of being misogynist. And just didn't care. 

Amy herself, earlier in that blog, kind of hints at that herself:
I discerned that Smithee was intelligent and well-educated and for a time, he seemed ethical. Then I saw him toying with his followers, alternating between praise and verbal abuse.
Near the end, she says she thought "he lost his way" fighting the Clinton grifting shitstorm, then adds that this is the best she can say about him. Obviously, even though she wasn't blocked, she had issues. Maybe she felt that misogyny, too.

And, for the same reason I thought he was a retiree, she asked how he had that much time. He said, according to her:
Over the 2016 holiday season, I asked “how can you spend so much time looking up these articles and sending them on Twitter and maintain a law practice?” He didn’t spend that much time online, he said. He didn’t really care about Twitter at all: just a casual thing. He didn’t address the question about his practice at all.
Only answers are? One, lying. Two, psychologically dissociated from how much time he DID spend on line. Three, either some of his resource work was assisted, or the account became a group affair. 

A lot of his followers were groupies, pure and simple. Go ahead and flame me, if you're going to claim this IS too soon.

And, since the groupies are now claiming "his empathy for the less fortunate" or whatever, the parenthetical subhead within the header is going to stay there for a while.

And also, Flatty accusing others of being racist, or of being sexist, is thus hilarious — until one realizes it's also hypocritical. Per Amy, he may well have thought he was neither of those. And, that itself wouldn't surprise me.

And ... this tribute card at his obit is kind of rich, speaking of such things. I also find it interesting by which family members get how much mention, including a four-legged member. Ties in with who took over his Twitter account.
I don't want to delve too much into his personal life, but ... jokes aside — more notice about playing with his dog than love for his wife? His birth family members wrote that more than his wife did, if she was involved at all.


I note that one groupie, in comments, while calling everything else vague, can only call the road rage a "mistake." Er, no. If even 25 percent of that level of anger was behind his Twitter anger, it was a psychological problem still ongoing, not a "mistake." My only "regret" is not knowing about this before he died, and calling him out on it, while being immediately prepared to block him if he entered into any sort of raging. (And, the domestic violence calls to his house indicate the anger behind his road rage was big and persistent. NOT a "mistake.")

Also, per Mr. Joshua? My life's not perfect. That said, I never threatened an old man with a pistol. And, I've pretty well apologized for my top indiscretions — and changed the behavior behind them. Puts me one up on Smithee right there.

So, groupies?

Did you also agree with his bullying women? (From my perception, he liked to do browbeat/beatdown level arguments with women more than men on Twitter.) Or were so intense on him you didn't even notice it? To a woman on Twitter who talked about how much he helped women — I guess this only included the ones he didn't bully.

Ditto, groupies, on his schtick of "investigate everything" yet getting angry — still close to road rage angry, perhaps? — when people like me actually did that? To be honest, I felt enough of his anger oozing through the interwebz on Twitter once or twice myself it scared me. In real life, had he gotten argumentative enough, it probably would have scared the shit out of me.

Re commenter Joshua, the only self-serving part may be me not making an apology to any of the women I saw get bullied at the time he was doing it. And, Mr. Joshua has shown, IMO, that he follows people first, and ideas second, including putting the idea of truth after the person of Chopin.

Also, a shallow attempt to prod me into anger to stop moderating your posts obviously didn't work. Other groupies, save yourselves the time. And, on the subject of shallow? Mr. Joshua, claiming I was "giggling" over Smithee's death, or writing about his criminal history? THAT's shallow.

Actually, though, I am beyond giggling though, and laughing outright while shaking my head — at the likes of you.

Another groupie, starts a blog dedicated to him. The dedication is so accurate that the blog doesn't allow comments, just like Flatty didn't allow dissent.

One semi-groupie, if not a full groupie, Senpai, is an outright racist who I blocked before Flatty blocked me. Flatty apparently didn't have a problem with his racism. That, in turn, reinforces what Amy above said about him.

Per comment above about Jay Sekulow, I don't know if Owl Doctor was a full-on groupie, but I do know that he found me after I friended Flatty, and I never saw him challenge Flatty. He was a nutbar of some sort.

Frankly, even with the marriage and daughter, Flatty might have been sexist IRL, too. A stereotypical Type A male, to some degree. Driving that pricey of a Mercedes, and not too old of one, when he was 27, and other things? While he hated money in politics, and supported single-payer a lot, things like income inequality or addressing it through something like basic income, I doubt floated his boat. During the months we were Twitter friends, I never really saw stuff like that from him. Besides the wheels, he liked other fancier things in life, and having plenty of money to blow on them. Add in the part about his mom also being a lawyer and I know money oozed.

I also love any groupies complaining about trolling when THEY, in their groupiness, created an #ActualFlatticus hashtag on Twitter that's still trending a full week after his death.

And, an irony alert for the groupies. Smithee tweeting about people voting on name recognition alone, just like why most the groupies followed him.

And Flatty is the gift that keeps on giving, as the hashtag gets me new Twitter followers.

One of them had this as his/her précis on his/her home:
"The inability to grasp the pathology of our oligarchic rulers is one of our gravest faults." Chris Hedges "I'm left of you, idiot." Smithee
That, again, is Smithee in one Tweet exchange. Pompous, presumptuous, high Dunning-Kruger level, and, wrong!


I noted above that his sis became at least short-term manager of his Twitter.

Did she know before he died about this part of him? Did the other lawyers in the family? And did his wife?

Speaking more of the sis, I found her, on LinkedIn and company website, based on facial features and her getting her undergrad and law degrees both at Chris's undergrad alma mater, Emory.

And the irony, or "something," gets even BIGGER.

She's a lawyer for Squire Patton Boggs, per the "company website" link. A PARTNER, no less! Yes, THAT Patton Boggs. White shoe law firm to the DC insider grifters. Per Wiki, it's the third-largest lobbying firm in the US! And, it says she has past experience with political campaign media, too.

Age is right. She'd be three years older than Chris. And Intelius confirms! (And another Tweety bird says the name is actually "Alexandra Chopin Wise," tho not listed that way professionally.

Oh, and "representation of targets and witnesses before committees of the US Congress," per the Patton Boggs page? She's a lobbyist, even if no longer at the DC office.

And as a "former journalist and political campaign media specialist," she's — a former spin doctor as well.

At the same time, on the silver spoon angle? LinkedIn says she went to Philips Exeter for high school. Her work includes getting False Claims Acts dismissed against two companies. And, she has Supreme Court appearance rights. And, she's done a lot of speaking work on social media and privacy issues. However, per this Christian Science Monitor piece, it's not clear what her actual stance is on such issues. It sounds likely to be more pro-business than pro-individual.

In other words? If Flatty really stood behind his Tweets, he hated what his sis did (if not necessarily her personally) just as much as what his dad did.

Related? Flatty claimed that Akin Gump was most profitable lobby form in America. Hmmm ....

Well, he's right, but only as of 2015. And, Squire Patton Boggs slumped ... because it got greedy with its merger, maybe? Although she's listed as a partner, she's no longer in DC — maybe she was part of the post-merger flight, choosing to work remotely or something rather than leave?

This is also an object lesson. My memory said Patton Boggs was the largest. And, it WAS — as just "Patton Boggs," before merging with the British company. Flatty was right on this.

That said, did he Tweet before 2014 about pre-merger Patton Boggs? I'll tell you its pre-merger connections include Ron Brown and Lanny Davis on the Dem side and post-merger, John Boehner on the GOP side. Wiki also has information on its more notable, or notorious, cases.

What happened to the old Patton Boggs? Chasing the Ecuadorean rain forest lawsuit crushed it.

How bad did it suck before then? Ken Silverstein has the details. Those details include that Patton Boggs had a big old PAC, and through the date of his 2015 piece, Hillary Clinton was its top beneficiary. Oops.

In fact, the firm, even outside the PAC, helped aid the rise of dark and soft money:

Boggs also lobbied for the American Bankers Association, on whose behalf he helped repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, the Great Depression era law that separated commercial and investment banking. Killing Glass-Steagall led slowly but surely to the 2008 economic meltdown and helped swell the incredible political power of Wall Street.
There you go.


Apparently Smithee thought the Russian sanctions had some real bite. In actuality, Russia has become a net exporter of most foodstuffs for the first time since before the Revolution.

A "non-partisan truth teller"? Not really, per Stein and GP stuff.

The irony or hypocrisy of him calling out others for Twitter abusiveness.

Indeed, the asshole specifically said he never lost arguments. And, folks, THAT is why he blocked some people, like me. It was after he DID lose an argument and he couldn't stand it.

Would he have remained a Democrat in 2020? Per this Tweet, not likely. But, would he have done the duopoly exit? Also not likely.

And, Smithee was wrong about other things.

Or here, where he says Sanders' blather about Syria was pandering to Democratic warmongers, rather than the truth that Sanders HIMSELF is a Democratic warmonger. (Generally, what I saw out of Flatty on foreign policy was generic left-liberal insightfulness but nothing more than that. Certainly not at the level of Mark Ames, Kevin Shorrock or others. Perhaps that's part of why he got his knickers in a knot at Stein's comments over Saudi Arabia.)

Smithee seeming to appoint himself the defender of women kind of makes me laugh, more makes me smh. On that, Joan Walsh was half right. Smithee was mean at times. But smarter by far than her. So am I, for that matter.

If Flatty preferred the thought of Caitlin Johnstone to Ben Dixon, that explains why so many of his groupies also retweet conspiracy theorists. And, per a Caity tribute Tweet, they did think each other kind of hung the moon.

To be blunt, in Flatty language, anybody who thought the nutbar Caitlin Johnstone was all that, was as fucking stupid as the people he called fucking stupid.

Otherwise, despite claims otherwise by his groupies, by and large, per this exchange, Flatty WAS, if not "All" talk, more talk than deeds.

Flatty also, with this Tweet as representative of many, seemed to lean halfway toward the NRA on the Second Amendment and, in all his discussion about all the diabolical PACs, never mentioned the NRA's.

Here, here, here, is an interesting one indeed! Flatty claims that despite his rich daddy — his rich, legally well-connected daddy who surely helped him beat the worst of the rap on pulling a road rage pistol not on just anybody, but on an off-duty deputy sheriff, claims he had to work a lot of "seriously shit jobs." Not sure how much I believe that. Also, this political genius wasn't sure whether it was his local or his state government who banned day laborers from congregating. Hint: It was almost surely municipal government. And, that shows that apparently Flatty didn't care much about local issues.

A Flatty groupie honestly admitting he's not sure he can do critical thinking so well with Flatty gone. Related, another thinking that Flatty had some special pipeline to research. NOT! (Well, unless Greg AtLast is right, and he did have a pipeline in his lobbyist sister ....)

And, the second installation of an #RIPSmithee legacy and archive Twitter feed started producing new, "original" tweets Oct. 31. I don't know whether or not this should give further credibility to Flatty actually being a group account, as some have speculated.

Said archiver isn't up to snuff; s/he gets DC v Heller wrong. SCOTUS never said regulating gun ownership is unconstitutional. Rather, it said they couldn't be banned from personal possession. And, Heller didn't cover the whole US, only DC (and by extension, other federal enclaves). Only McDonald two years later had national application.

Still trying to figure what Flatty himself thought of 2A. But, per this longer Tweet collection, if they're all his, he didn't support more gun control. Let's not forget that he, at least in 2004, kept a pistol in his car.


Either those actually curious about Chris Chopin, aka Flatticus, aka Smithee, or groupies or semi-groupies who actually do want to pursue truth (vs winning, per the subhead) or even haters who want another arrow in the quiver? Let's look at Smithee's schtick, as I called it, vs. reality, in another way.

Anybody who knows anything about competitive high school and college debate knows, just as well as did "champion debater" Chris Chopin, that competitive debate is about winning, not "the truth."

A nickel tour of elements of basic informal logic will explain.

Basic informal logic in a logical argument, not a debater's argument, or a lawyer's argument, has two elements.

One is the logical organization and structure of the argument.

In other words, ignoring any truth values, does Point B logically follow from Point A? Does Point C logically follow from Points A and B together? The classical syllogism illustrates this.

All males are really females
Socrates was male
Ergo, Socrates is really female.

All correctly argued.

As noted, though, LOGICAL argumentation, vs a debate, has two elements.

The other is the truth value of any empirical items in any points.

My syllogism above is hugely fallacious because, of course, "All males are really females" is false.

Smithee/Flatticus was a great debate-type arguer. I have no doubt Chris Chopin was the same in the courtroom.

That said, as a newspaper editor, I know well that the old bon mot about lawyers (on both sides) not caring for the truth indeed has its degree of truth. Lawyers, like other debater types, are worried about winning before they're worried about the truth.

Oh, they both worry about the truth as an element of their argumentation, sure. They're not going to utter a silly syllogism like mine. But, that's, in most cases, because it would wreck their chances of winning, not because the major premise is false per se.

I suspect many groupies and semi-groupies were gulled by not making this distinction.

Well, that's the way logic actually works.

And, to riff on that distinction, groupies?

This is one last ex post facto debate. And, I win. Not him, and not you.

Oh, speaking of? Even though blogs are generally considered opinion, printing matters of fact, contra April Deming, is usually the first line of defense against defamation.

In the case of Flatty, deceased people can't be defamed. Ironic that a groupie of a lawyer wouldn't think that far.

Beyond that, per the normal understanding of defamation and libel, I could argue that Chopin, via Twitter, is a "famous person" and malice aforethought would have to be proven.


Some further background, from his Twitter days.

He hated journalists in general, or so it seemed to me. At least, he hated the big ones. (And, yes, he knew my background.) Black-and-white thinker on this, as on several other things. That said, he knew I didn't think a lot of the worth of a lot of the big MSM myself. (And, I'm now wondering if, after he went deep undercover, or became a double agent, or whatever, there was a "why" to this hatred.) But claiming you know more on something than David Sirota? (That said, Sirota lost a step in my world when he went to work for David Brock.)

On broader politics, he didn't hate, or dislike, just Jill Stein. He didn't like the Green Party in general for whatever reason, as noted above. He didn't hate it, but from what he's discussed of his past voting record, he refused third-party voting.

Based on his citing Educate-Yourself (the link above), and other people referring to Amy Goodman’s alleged $1 million pay as a reason she’s a co-conspirator on suppressing so-called 9/11 “truth,” I wonder if he was a conspiracy theorist. The reality on Goodman is that the parting from Pacifica was mutual, mutually agreed and mutually acceptable, per The Nation. The Educate Yourself piece Flatticus used is also a flat-out lie to claim that her salary is tax-free. NOBODY’s salary is tax free. They may take all sorts of deductions, but it’s NOT “tax free.” 

He could have Googled for that Nation link. A lawyer knows that income is not "tax free" in general. Yes, one can get tax exemptions as well as deductions, but even for ministers, income does not start out with a "presumption" of being tax free.

Do I hate him? No, not at all. Not now and not then.

I found it kind of sad that he couldn't or wouldn't practice what he preaches on the verification issue. Per Educate-Yourself, I don't think he was anti-Semitic, either, but it was also sad to see that he'd cite a website like that, especially when I scrolled through it more. It was even sadder to see an even more obvious conspiracy theory site be used as a reference. That said, given other things I've learned about him IRL, I wouldn't be 100 percent sure he was NOT, in fact, anti-Semitic in some way.

(Media Bias/Fact Check, the best online source I've seen for checking out both factual accuracy/inaccuracy level, and slant on opinion, on news or news-like sites, has a separate rating for conspiracy theory sites. And, it puts Educate-Yourself in that group, ranking it "strong" on both conspiracy thinking and pseudoscience.

I am sad that he had too many groupies who considered him a guru and did not actually check out everything he claimed. Maybe some will flame me, even with comments moderated. That's why I used a secondary Twitter account to post my original update of this piece.


No, contra one other respondent, I don't think Smithee was racist. And, beyond him linking to a blatantly anti-Semitic website, I have no information otherwise on whether or not he was anti-Semitic.

I do, per the one brief note above, express my condolences to his family. That said, I never met them online even. But I have met online many of Flatticus' followers, some of whom indeed stand out as groupies.

That said, I'm not harshing Smithee groupies' mellow as much as in this post as Roger Riga is on Twitter. That said, Riga, on Medium, even if his Twitter feed is "interesting, was a Jill Stein supporter. Puts him ahead of Smithee right there.

Meanwhile, as of the evening of Oct. 15, Riga, aka Lawyer Killer, had locked down his account and since I hadn't "followed" him before then, I can't see his Tweets. I've requested a friending; let's see if he grants it. Interesting, or something, he's also removed the "Murderer of @ActualFlatticus" from his Twitter precis. Probably was getting Twitter-flamed far more than me.

Moving to something first posted above, I disagree with the Medium piece's author, Kevin Sarpei, about how much he alluded to Flatty having "one or two character flaws" (only allusion) or directly referred to his anger management and criminal histories (not at all) in discussing Flatty, including linking here. 

And, this same Sarpei, in Twitter conversation about Tulsi Gabbard, said that mentioning her RSS / BJP connection would be digging up "every bit of dirt" about her. (Sarpei has since unfollowed me on Twitter. That's fine. I don't think he was a total groupie, but ... an acolyte, adept or fellow traveler? Per this Tweet he retweeted without quote-Tweeting, I also will operate on the assumption he is a 9/11 Truther, which doesn't surprise me.)

Makes me wonder yet other things about Flatty. And, yes, I Googled "Actual Flatticus" plus "Islamophobia." Found nothing one way or the other.

Other than that per mentioning Haller, I've got my eye on a couple of other semi-famous political minded people on Twitter. We'll see if they change their worshipfulness or not. Doug Henwood, last I checked, had not followed up his initial mournful Tweet. (And yes, he's got the link to this post.)

(Now that I'm seeing that Haller retweets wingnuts like Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft, that's yet more reason to be skeptical at least of him.)

And, so, I think others on Twitter still need to be warned about him. He's dead. He can't Tweet anymore. His sister has locked his account. But don't let a false legacy live on. And, be Twitter-forewarned. Don't buy schtick. And, per the Palm Beach GOP and his own "parody" in the bio, don't buy anything Flatty without critical thinking.


Update note, Oct. 23: The #ActualFlatticus hashtag has now "faded" on Twitter. It won't autopopulate. I am probably going to do a separate "wrap" of sorts post Thursday or Friday, and that's it. Sorry, but that's enough here. I have fulfilled most my interest in the man. Those who want to remain "groupies" will; most others, like me, will move on. The "groupies" types probably won't move on beyond the Democratic Party and do a #DemExit, though, so I'll run into them in other ways. 

As for some of his more extreme groupies, they don't worry me. I've probably already blocked them on Twitter, or vice versa, and really don't have a lot of desire to investigate them further either.

As a final bit of refutation to both them and less extreme groupies? I made 50 or more Twitter friends after this post went viral. I don't have to prove to myself that I wasn't alone on some of my take on Flatty. I can't prove it to you out there. All I can do is present the evidence.

Other than that, I don't see any conspiracies behind his death. With that said, it doesn't otherwise matter how he died unless it provides warning to others who may need it.

Bottom line? To riff on an old saying I've heard elsewhere, what was true from him was not necessarily new, and what was new from him was not necessarily true.

But a third Twitter tribute account was formed sometime in early 2018. I was pre-emptively blocked from this one.

So, his sister was the one who grabbed and managed his Twitter account. Why her and not his wife? And, announcement made four days after his death.

Did Alexandra know he was doing this before he died? Did any other family members? I have to think his sister did, which is why she took control of his account.

Update note, Oct. 28: Greg AtLast, doppelgänger of Greg Palast, ponders all that and more.

Other tidbits? First, see his comment at the bottom of this lawyers' related blog, the fall after his road rage. I'll say no more.

And, speaking of blogs, he had his own law-related blog. I found that via a comment on a post at Balkinization where Smithee was his usual argumentative self.

Corey Robin, in The Reactionary Mind, reviewed here, calls Balkin a "liberal originalist" as far as constitutional philosophy, giving that same label to Larry Tribe and Akhil Reed Amar, among others. Having negatively reviewed two of Amar's books, and laughed at and scorned Tribe's flip on the Second Amendment, that puts Balkin in more of a light now. (I'd read him occasionally in the past.) And, it certainly puts Flatty in more of a light legally.

He also rubbed people the wrong way outside politics, even in his beloved pipe-smoking world. And, at a /reddit for pipe-smokers, same thing.

And, on another Balkinization post, he was a defender of Nino Scalia's alleged "textualism." Either he was still sucking at the family money-and-politics teat too much then, or maybe he never totally got beyond it. (Post is from 2004.) Anyway, Mr. Mensa Member defending Nino for something Scalia didn't actually do underscores my previous comment about Mensa. That said, per other comments there, he wasn't a blanket defender of Nino, and he sure didn't like a lot of Shrub Bush.

On the other hand, his comment here misrepresents the piece AND shows some of the Smithee misogyny.

As far as political background? He was indeed a registered Democrat last year. That said, per the FEC campaign contributions link for his dad, I saw nothing in federal campaign contributions by him. Dunno if he did anything at the Florida state level or not.

Sidebar? Damn, housing in Florida is expensive.

And, per condolences to the family, they did pick a very good charity in lieu of flowers. Besides general condolences for a family member's death, in general, in some ways, I feel actually sorry for them. And the sister is having to deal with a barnyard, too — even if it's a barnyard she probably already knew something about.

And may be wanting to enshrine. Per complaints from the groupies, I found out only confirmed followers get to see his Tweets now. I wouldn't do that hassle even with a new fake account.

I was just curious if he was this monomaniacal nearly 10 years ago, and the answer is probably yes. He was probably also a sucker for Obama. But, I don't need to waste that much time.

And, per responses to James Dorsey, I apparently was far from alone in thinking he was at least 15 years older than he actually was, if not 25.

I'm curious if she's doing this for any reason other than to prevent tweet-mining. That alone would kind of enshrine it, but is she going to run updates through it?

On the other hand, some people have speculated that maybe Alexandra wants to actually do something with it. I've even seem wondering if she not only knew of his account before he died but was tag-teaming with him on Tweeting. I at least think she knew of it; why did she, not his wife, take it over? And, with that, the idea that she was tag-teaming is at least possible, is it not?

I've seen other wonderment if Flatty was connected to GOP monkey-wrencher Roger Stone, since Palm and West Palm is his current landing zone and has been for years.

Sorry, but teh Google shows zero hits when it's "Christopher Chopin" + "Roger Stone." Only a couple when Frank's name is plugged in, instead, and those that did hit did not have Frank's name in the actual story. That then said, both Frank and Roger had high enough dollars that they surely met at some GOP functions.

Finally, I have thought about possible causes of his death, yes. And commented elsewhere, in response to someone else, once.

I don't think it's really necessary, though, other than to say I certainly don't think there was anything conspiratorial behind it, and that I hope any Flatty Followers who DO think that stop it.


Elizabeth Lee Beck, one half of the Beck lawyers' team running the DNC fraud lawsuit work, has one foot firmly in the conspiracy theory world. She's not the only Flatty fan who has at least a toe in conspiracy waters, and not just about his death.  Shirtless Pundit has at least a toe, I think. Retweeting anybody claiming the Vegas shooting was a false flag? That's it. Retweeting Prison Planet, too.

That said, hubby Jared Beck has three feet in the conspiracy world — believing Twitter was blocking him, touting Seth Rich murder conspiracies, and calling the Parkland school shooting survivors calling for gun control "drama actors." No wonder he showed his true colors and went to Gab. And, per that Jared Beck link, I wonder if Smithee, who wasn't hardcore on gun control, would have gone down the same road as Beck (and ShirtLost DumbShit) on Parkland kids.

Another person thinks that ability to speak multiple languages makes a person a genius. Nope. Hundreds of millions of people around the world, from genius, through smart, through average, to below average, have that ability. Many Catholic priests still speak Latin. Many speak Spanish as well as English AND Latin. Believing otherwise, believing that it IS genius, is American insularity at work.

And, OK, so it's a problem in America. We'll file Flatty the non-monolingual as "genius, American exceptionalist division."

Other Greens, besides Beau in comments, seem to think highly, or too highly, of Flatty, especially via Caitlin Johnstone. (sigh) I've found the additional Tweets above, both anti-Stein and anti-Green in general, enough to tell them to wake up.

To riff on an old saying I've heard elsewhere, what was true from him was not necessarily new, and what was new from him was not necessarily true.

Zack Haller claims on FB, in somebody's thread, that Man from Atlan (who I do give a kudo to alerting me to Chopin's death) has "refuted" me in a Twitter thread. I doubt it. As I doubt anything, these days, from ShirtLost DumbShit Haller.

And, yeah, I'm going to post more like this not just in days, but weeks, ahead. 

Random detritus that I find related to Flatty.

CEO pay, performance, capitalism and company improvement

Houston Chronicle business columnist Chris Tomlinson has a good piece on how CEO pay is often not linked to company bottom-line improvement. Of course, even before the Reagan-era spike in income inequality, primarily devoted to the top 1/10th of 1 percent, that was already true to a degree.

But, it's more true now.

Well, it's true as far as it goes.

It takes a too-narrowly capitalistic look at "the bottom line."

Let's look at, oh, the Hearst Corporation, owners of the Chronicle. Let's note that the Chronicle recently fired its Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, Nick Anderson.

If the bottom line is "dollars and cents," then, sure, that helped the bottom line.

If, in the case of media companies, the bottom line is still considered what it (allegedly) was 50 years ago, that hurt the bottom line.

Companies that win those "best to work for" awards usually pay well. They also do other things well for their employees.

And, it's not just media companies, which "produce" a somewhat intangible product. Health care, per the old "doctor's bedside manner," has intangible elements. So does the renowned customer service department of Apple.

I'm not sure how you measure all of that. But, the idea needs to be raised.

(I don't know what Hearst's CEO makes as the company is private.)


Chris then had another column (I can't find it in a recent actual column, may have been a retweet of someone else) wrote elsewhere about how more than half of employees in the US are subject to binding arbitration at their employers. He did have a column about non-employment binding arbitration here.

Being both serious and devil's advocate, when I saw another Chron employee retweet that, tagging Chris, the Chronicle's "house" Twitter account and one other, I asked: "Does this include Hearst employees?"

Silence in response would indicate "yes."

Or, per something I just tweeted here in early 2018, if the Chronic is like some of the magazines in the Hearst empire, Chris could write about misuse of interns.

October 11, 2017

Bad math + bad branding and marketing = bad ideas on #BasicIncome, for me

Approximately 10 minute read; part of an ongoing occasional series on basic income issues.

I appreciate the work Basic Income evangelist Scott Santens does. I would like for us to have some sort of basic income — with certain caveats about what type of basic income, what it will include or not, and how effective it will be.

But with Santens, as with many evangelists, you don't get the full sell right away.

That's very true in a new piece by him, claiming that getting everyone in the US $1,000 a month in basic income would only cost $900 billion net.

First, I don't think he has it there, and it's a 25-minute read which I didn't go through, but teh Google at the office told me that the "everyone" is only adults. Niños get just $325 a month.

Reality is that, on gross costs, it's $4 trillion a year, if we look at all the US of 325 million as adults and citizens (assuming that's also a restriction). But, let's round down a bit, to play with Santens.

Since $3.85 trillion is the entire US budget this year, that's his ask. I Tweeted about that Thursday night.

After that, the next morning, he accused me of "not doing the math," then Tweeted the image at left.

No, I had just gone to bed, and figured his math would eventually involve a chunk o taxes, which it does.

And with that, here in just a minute, we're going to start getting to the real nut cutting of what's wrong with his taxes.

This piece, which also tells us the $12K isn't for kids, has the details of how Santens wants to scramble for nearly $3 billion with a B in new tax revenue, cut Social Security in half, presumably cut SSI and SSDI entirely, and more.


I agree with half his tax reform, but eliminating the earned income tax credit? No. That does a fair amount of undercutting basic income for the poor. Eliminating food stamps, or TANF? Refederalize it rather than a state program of block grants. (Indirectly more than directly, as he’s never commented on a previous blog post of mine, though we have talked a bit on Twitter, Santens and I have definitely disagreed here. He thinks any federal program that isn’t currently working well should simply be thrown on the scrap heap and replaced with BI. Says the same for disability income.)

I've blogged before about how I adamantly oppose gutting disability programs on ethical and philosophical grounds, too. I totally stand by that, unless, per the bottom, Scott wants to give people TWO THOUSAND a month.

Beyond THAT, the EITC has long been recognized as “negative” basic income, and a good version of it. Why tinker with, or screw up, what works? And, if you eliminate it, even if you also cut FICA taxes for Social Security by partially rolling it into basic income, I'm not sure that you're actually helping the poor that much.

BI vs Social Security?

Reduce Social Security. and replace the part reduced with 2x basic income? No, that's going to increase some red tape. Plus, unless you're going to make half of BI for seniors tax-free, or other issues, you're still going to have to tweak BI for seniors more.

Ditto on Social Security as "it works."

That then said, this is my first opportunity, of several, to tell Santens to go "whole hog." If one is going to propose $1,000 a month basic income, rather than the $200 a month the Alaska permanent fund offers there, or the $500 or so a month of trial basic income in places like Canada and Finland, go whole hog, Scott?

If you're going to "touch" Social Security, why not kill it? Then, give seniors a "basic income multiplier" similar to the over-65 tax deduction. Don't present your hybrid mule instead of either that or the current system, though.

As for the idea that Social Security is "really" basic income? Uh, no. It's based on employment year earnings and is not given equally to all. Retweeting an untrue claim like that in the name of "branding" is bad branding, once again, like the Alaska claim.

Also, this gets to the practicality issue. Social Security will remain a third rail of US politics for years to come. Your unreality squared on what you can actually pass will only increase if you try to touch it.

As for complaints about SSDI and how hard it is to get approved? Well, fix that!

A targeted safety net?

To pick up on things above, the EITC isn't targeted. It's a "negative tax," so it's not actual cash Andrew Jacksons. But, it's not targeted in that it's not restricted.

Neither are unemployment bennies. SSDI has caps, but it's not targeted either.

Only food stamps (TANF) and HUD Section 8 vouchers (strangely not mentioned by name in most BI discussions) are "targeted," as far as larger social welfare programs.

Oh, and if targeted programs ARE a problem, you'd better add yet more money to BI if you're going to kill Section 8.

Keep non-environmental hands off carbon taxes

Carbon tax? Well, no carbon tax unless a carbon tariff is attached. First, that makes it more palatable. Second, in terms of climate change, a carbon tariff forces the whole world on the same page.

And, no, I wouldn't want all carbon tax revenues to go to BI, either. At least some of that needs to go to climate change mitigation. Others needs to go to climate change prevention, like more, and all-electric, mass transit, high speed rail, etc. To put it bluntly, I'm opposed to ANYTHING other than climate change issues being at the top of the list on spending carbon tax money. Period.

After all, to the degree people can move away from climate change, the rich can do that more than the poor, and even than the middle class.

So, in my version of BI, at least half of Santens' $190 billion from carbon taxes isn't available.

Other revenue streams?

A Tobin tax? (The technically correct name for his Robin Hood tax?) Totally agree on it.

Taxing land valuation? Politically totally unrealistic, especially if you try to do it on top of a VAT, which winger Americans will sneer at as Euro-socialism.

Beyond that, a federal-level land tax has never caught fire in the US since Henry George first proposed it. And he knows that, too. Appraisal problems nationwide would be tough. Yes, Russia uses it, but Russia's not a fully democratic country.

And, how much would be needed? Santens just plugs it in as contributing a full $1 trillion.

And, on all of this, changes to the tax code don’t happen in a vacuum.

That includes searches for new tax loopholes or even outright tax avoidance. Don't doubt for a minute that won't increase with a BI program this big.

This all leads to a more fundamental issue, or problem.

With national health care, for example, I have no problem pushing for something “unrealistic,” even elements of a British national health system with government-hired medical employees and government-owned facilities. I think even that, let alone “plain” national health care, is still a whole order of magnitude more realistic than Santens’ ideas.

But, I've only scratched the surface.

Get real about Alaska

After that, Santens claims, again, and wrongly, again, that Alaska points the way to accomplishing his idea for basic income.

This is only true under this being another bait and switch.

Alaska's $200 a month basic income is nowhere near $1,000 a month. And, with cost-of-living adjustments, it's only $100 in Lower 48 money. Plus, it's funded from a resource tax that is perhaps partially analogous to a reverse carbon tax and nothing else on Santens' checklist.

And, I'm halfway sure Santens knows all of this. I'm highly sure that he should know all that.

That, in turn, goes back to the "evangelist." Not for nothing did Og Mandino call Paul of Tarsus the world's greatest salesman.

Political philosophy and basic income

Finally, there's a philosophical difference or two or six between him and I.

The most immediate difference? If you believe that basic income should replace disability income, and even more, unemployment bennies, then $1,000 is too LOW. You should be wanting at least $1,500 a month, if not $2,000 a month. And, if you're proposing something this unrealistic, what's the difference between $1,000 and $2,000? Well, it's the difference between the entire current federal budget and TWICE the entire current fellow budget. I think Santens is recognizing that political unreality on steroids is just doable with magic pony dust, but that pony dust can't cover up political reality in aleph-two infinity.

(In the real world, while Canada is looking at giving people nearly $1,500 a month in its upcoming test program, both Finland and Italy are looking at $500 a month.)

Next, what do you mean by "basic income"? Riffing on this piece, if you mean enough to let a person live in something more than shithole housing, pay all utilities including either smartphone or landline internet, to either have money for maintaining and insuring a used car or else for mass transit in an urban area, to buy food for the month that includes stuff healthier than white rice, white bread, white-flour pasta, etc. and to pay utilities, and to live in a big enough place where, as far as actually working, jobs are available? Actual income "basic" enough for all basic needs? Even if you agree with Santens that we don't need to be paying New York City levels or close to it, $1,000 a month might well not be enough.

There's also another philosophical issue — the one of "fairness." Should the disabled, the unemployed, and others in similar situations get an extra bump? I agree emotionally to some degree with John Rawls, though philosophically, per Walter Kaufmann, he's pretty close to all wet. This gets back to the amount issue. If you don't think these people deserve a "bump," then, IMO, you have to set the BI level higher than $1,000 a month. I do think so myself, emotionally.

In addition, the attacks by another BIer, applauded by Santens, on keeping unemployment benefits with BI are ... well, they're ignorant. Beyond my "too low," they ignore that most BI pilot programs are being started by neoliberal centrist parties in whatever nation they're in, first.  They then ignore that that, in turn, is deliberate. They also ignore that parties of the left in Europe have, rightly, or wrongly, over the past 15-20 years, already modified much of their unemployment structure.

(Also, the experts cited there are all IT-focused economists. Tech neoliberals. What Evgeny Morozov would call "solutionists." Take their claims and arguments carefully.)

Basically, I get the feeling Santens is falling between two stools. One is an Alaska-level "chippie" program, and the other is what I'm saying he should be saying. But even he knows that the $1K magic pony he's proposing has less than less than zero chance of being a $2K magic stallion.

Tools to help Americans

An Alaska-type basic income wouldn't solve a lot of problems. It would solve a lot less than single-payer, even without my NHS, in my opinion.

Simple — your health care right now is worth at least $400 a month (if you have employer health care) between your co-pay and employer co-pay. And, single-payer would boost job mobility just as much as basic income.

Basic income wouldn't even be my second tool for addressing US employment problems, and I've blogged about that before too. A 35-hour work week for overtime, combined with a $10/$12/$15 minimum wage for rural/suburban/urban areas, like Oregon's, WITH a COLA? That, as a package, would be my second tool. German-type long-term unemployment bennies would probably be my third.

In other words, as I've blogged before, BI is simply not a magic wand. (Other dubious evangelism is at that piece, like Santens' claim that BI would fight climate change. You have no way of being even close to knowing that, Scott, and in fact, it might make it worse.)

And on a related note? Santens talks very little about single-payer national health care unless it's within talking about BI first. Googling by his full name plus either "single-payer" OR "Medicare for all" gets about 700 hits total.

Googling his name plus Bitcoin? 14,000 hits. (He even accepts Bitcoin donations on his blog.)

Bitcoin is not such a tool

And THAT is the final issue.

Bitcoin is a wet dream par excellence for many libertarians. Santens' apparent semi-bromance with it, plus other libertarian-leaning tweets and Twitter accounts he follows ... leaves me still uncertain of just how much he'd "cave" to libertarian-leaning versions of BI. (I mentioned a bit of that in my "no magic wand" piece already.) I've "warned" him and similar that they need to separate themselves from libertarian-leaning versions, or they lose the likes of me, and even possibly get my active resistance.

Besides the bottom line that cryptocurrencies are ultimately a wet dream for libertarians, they are of little value, if any, for promoting basic income in particular, or the betterment of working-class people in general. If anything, as part of that "wet dream," they're detrimental.

After all, they're related the libertarian wet dream of dismantling nation-states so allegedly pure capitalism can run amok as the invisible hand does its perfectionist thing.

Well, libertarians are in denial that pure capitalism not only doesn't exist, but never will. They're in denial that Adam Smith derived his "invisible hand" from the wind-up- the-universe deity of deism.

His claim that basic income is "neither capitalism nor socialism" is also ... interesting, and also sounds like a libertarian-based branding point. That said, Santens isn't a pure libertarian; if he were, the phrase "more taxes" would never escape his lips. Maybe an "anarcho-futurist," if I feel I have to strive for labeling, myself? He does have an "@futurism" note on his Twitter profile. See my note above about Morozov-type solutionists. Many are cryptolibertarians — usually hiding it from others, but sometimes from themselves.

Santens really seems to be about issues of social and other justice. That said, many true libertarians claim their ideas are about that, too.

And, seeing how much I wrote at the end? I'll probably develop this into a separate blog post at some point down the road.

The traditional nation-state needs to be upgraded, at a minimum, replaced, at worse. A "Wild West" of Bitcoin or other cybercurrency is definitely not part of the answer in my book, though.

Even if Santens isn't that sympathetic to libertarians, let me add another note to this issue. Per Wiki, many libertarians — and some paleoconservatives of the Charles Murray stripe — promote basic income in terms of "government inefficiency." It's another version of the old "waste, fraud and abuse" slogan. But, the government is supposed to be running any BI program, right? Well, this might itself be a bait and switch. Wait for a call for the likes of Ross Perot's old Electronic Data Systems to get called on for a BI administration contract.

And, beyond Bitcoin, Santens has said elsewhere that he also supports the idea of private citizens creating money in general AND that it would be a good thing for the economy. Applying the US Constitution's "full faith and credit" to dollars, and other nation states' similar backings of its fiat money, uh, NO. What if a private individual's "full faith and credit" is bankrupt? Is it time for libertarian lawsuit land?

And, speaking of the traditional nation-state? North Korea is conducting cyberwar against Bitcoin as well as the the nation-state of the US and others. And he's at least as successful against Bitcoin.

BI and the gig economy

And, even if it's not outrightly libertarian, but more, say, tech-neoliberal, there's this whole issue of the "gig economy." If basic income isn't set at $1,500 a month or more, people will still need to work. They may have more options if they have income assistance, but they're still going to need to work. It's going to take some massive shifting to have half of Americans or more working primarily as freelancers. That's going to have to start with getting them in the right mindset. It's also going to have to include a higher minimum wage, and other protections for freelancers. And, none of that's any good without single payer.

And, that, in turn, gets me back to what I see as the single most important tool and aid for working America today.

There's also the issue of regulating businesses in an ever-more-freelance economy. Federal laws for timely payment of freelancer checks (already needed now) come to mind. Enforcing federal fraud on bogus employment ads.

And, as the Equifax scamming has shown, laws for control of information in a Net 3.0 information services economy are vital.

Transnational labor protections? Let me know when the International Labor Organization, for the good it actually does do on occasion, writes world-wide labor safety laws and other protections and has the teeth to enforce them.

Until the United Nations becomes something like a world government, I'll take the 500-year-old nation-state over libertarian or tech-neoliberal alternatives.

In short, we're looking at a lot more moving parts in a lot more places than a first-level impression of basic income might make you think.

And, other than that possible follow-up on cryptocurrencies — and maybe one about the "gig economy" — I'm probably done talking about BI for some time. My left-liberal and beyond political push, per the best tools I said above, will remain with pushing for national health care.

Meanwhile, while we are indeed NOT "all in sales," the gig economy, as driven by neoliberalism, is trying to get us to believe we all should be in marketing — self-marketing.

Actually, with this as a start point, I'm already working on a "gig economy" blog post, which will also get into the regulatory nation-state and related issues. It will be a few weeks out, so I have time to cogitate.