Thursday, December 6, 2007

Attacking Corruption: The Power and Frustrations of the Blogosphere (Updated)

INTRODUCTION: I have been known to tell many of new found allies in the case of the corruption that I have found at Emory University, Grady Hospital and beyond that our opponents cannot control what I am doing because the internet is not controllable. It is a force beyond anyone's control.

For instance, a few weeks ago I wrote this story linking the murder of Derwin Brown, the suicide of Charles Hicks to a culture of corruption in Dekalb County under its "leader" Vernon Jones. The story started its journey on the front page of Real Clear Politics\ and then traveled its way across the country until hundreds of people began emailing it to each other (I know this through the technical way in which my stat counter tracks my visitors. It is too long and boring to explain so you will have to take my word for it) I even received this email in response to the story.

Mr. Volpe, Greetings... I have recently been reading many of your comments specifically relating to corruption, politics, and particularly Dekalb County.. You Sir are right on point!!! The dynamic that resulted in the ELECTED by the people Sheriff Derwin Brown (as opposed to the establishment "appointed" Sheriff Tommy Brown) was certainly a result of a vast conspiracy not merely the action of a single individual(Sid Dorsey)..

Derwin had himself uncovered many instances of longstanding good ole boy wink and nod politics and outright corrupt practices. Additionally, he aligned himself with individuals ( such as yours truly) who had personal knowledge of corrupt practices and deals that government officials elected in Dekalb had engaged by formed cozyrelationships with business people for their personal gain and pecuniary benefit. All be it strip club operators, county vendors, bail bondspeople, or off duty officers with private security accounts; Derwin represented the end of this type graft. These miscreants wanted him stopped and they stopped him. Maybe by not necessarily pulling the trigger but by creating an atmosphere and culture that resulted in demented and ignorant individuals like Dorsey, Cuffie, et al feeling that it needed to be done and should be done..

These tacitly involved individuals have Derwin's blood on their hand to the same extent as the trigger men... Moreover, allowing individuals like Vernon Jones, Charles Hicks, Louis Graham, and Thomas Brown (the prmier figurehead) to run the government is nothing short of a farce.. Mr. Hicks may have truly had a crisis of conscience and therein lies the reason for his unfortunate death (be it suicide or murder). The real power brokers (Bob Wilson, Ray Suddeth, Mark Dehler, Frank Redding, and Sembler) are the ones reaping the real benefits $$$ from these shenaigans in Dekalb County government over the last 15 years. Unfortunately, it is at great cost to the taxpayers and underminds the sheer fiber that our Constitution is foundationed upon and yes cost at least one hero his life..

I received several such emails and a host of new and important contacts as a result of internet travels of that story. No amount of corruption can stand up to the power of the internet, email, and how that dynamics brings everyone together.

The feedback hasn't always been good. For instance, I recevied this email from Dr. Michael Ward of the University of Cincinnati. He has some incendiary things about Kevin Kuritzky, the whistle blower that first turned me onto this story.

Mike, Just wanted to let you know that you shouldn't get taken in by Kevin Kuritzky. The guy is a pathological liar and I have personally been taken in by his stories only to realize that he was flat out lying. I also know numerous other people who have experienced the same. It is quite sad because he is a very charming, intelligent person. He just uses these skills to manipulate people. Don't get taken in by him.Mike--

Michael Ward MD,




Department of Emergency Medicine

University of Cincinnati

I invited Dr. Ward etc. etc. to back his vague and incendiary statements up with examples and evidence. He has declined and since the email is now my property I have decided to use every opportunity to use it to expose him as the fraud. He is of course welcome anytime to back up any of these statements. In the meantime, his own words will be on the internet for everyone to see.

Those are examples of using the blogosphere and the internet for positive and how it becomes the ultimate equalizer. On my site, Dr. Ward etc. etc. is no more powerful than anyone else, and through the reach of sites like Google his own words will be on display for anyone that cares. Now, I have introduced the positives of the blogosphere however this piece is about some of the filth and garbage that you find will navigating through and with that the introduction is over...

I will direct everyone to two separate sites in which, in my opinion, all of the worst of the internet came out. First, I have an admission to make. I traced a tentacle of this story down to Florida in the person of Dr. Andrew Agwunobi. He appears to be knee deep in the scandal at WellCare. Since he is currently in the REPUBLICAN administration, I see his exposure as a boon to all Democrats. Well, in terms of size and power the ultimate Democratic blogging site is Daily Kos.

While a true blue Republican would have difficulty there, I simply couldn't ignore their sheer size and numbers. I knew that I couldn't go there as myself, so I went there under the pseudonym, theprovacateur. (I know it is misspelled and so be it.) I received a lukewarm reception to my expose of Dr. Agwunobi. While most of the people that read it liked it, it wasn't nearly as popular as the most recent "expose of a Bush Lie, impeachable offense, and example of incompetence".

Next, I thought I would be more confrontational and inflammatory in a piece that was in response to another piece published by a regular of Daily Kos vis a vis Vernon Jones. Anyone who knows anything about the Kos knows that confrontational and inflammatory are not only welcomed but encouraged there. Welcomed and encouraged that is I found as long as you are attacking what they consider the enemy. Since I dared to attack one of their own, well suddenly the entire Kos site became quite sensitive. (Yes, this is a case of being able to dish it out but not taking it)

Here are some examples of the comments...

you need to give some serious thought to your approach to diarying here. You don't raise awareness about an issue by attacking another diarist who wrote something only very indirectly related to your issue, six freaking months ago. I suggest you delete this diary and try again. If Vernon Jones is your problem then write a diary about Vernon Jones. Don't write diaries accusing others of being "pathetic". That's not going to win you loyal readers.

And a last piece of advice: before you issue sweeping statements of condemnation about Kossacks, you'd better know what the f$%k you're talking about, because I will personally guarantee you that whatever the subject, there will be at least one person around who knows 10X more about it than you ever will. Now delete this ridiculous diary so that it doesn't show up on your "permanent record," and welcome to DailyKos.

Keep in mind that Vernon Jones is the subject of much of my wrath. Vernon Jones is most likely a multiple rapist, probably tied to a great deal of personal corruption, and certainly oversees not only a corrupt police force but also a corrupt public hospital. In other words this is a bad guy. Did I mention he is running for U.S. Senate? Yet, most of the wrath is directed at me, not Jones, because the language I used was "inappropriate". Those weren't the most revealing comments though. These two were.

Lots of places besides DailyKos to send this. (7+ / 0-) Recommended by:
Rebecca, JeffSCinNY, eeff, joanneleon, sbdenmon, Unduna, Goodbye Kitty
TPM Muckrakers, Open Left, FireDogLake, Americablog. Go for it. One more
crook killing people doesn't even qualify as news anymore. Good luck.

Local GA political blogs (3+ / 0-) Recommended by: Rebecca, JeffSCinNY, joanneleon
would be an even better choice. Tondee's Tavern, for example. Link's in my blogroll, if you're interested, diarist...

These folks, who claim to be appalled by all of this corruption around them, passed on actually doing anything about corruption put right in front of them. It was pretty clear that they like to chat back and forth about all of the supposed corruption they see but can't do anything about, rather than trying to tackle any corruption in front of them. Keep in mind that Jones is running for the Democratic nomination of the U.S. Senate. Despite proclaiming how large and powerful they are whenever they think it matters, they are now suddenly powerless to this corruption. Not only did I, not Jones and his corruption, become the issue, but they frankly had no motivation to actually challenge any of the corruption that many of them ceded he has caused. While they found nearly endless energy to attack me, they had none left for a real bad guy, Vernon Jones.

Of course, what happened vis a vis this piece was nothing to what happened when I published this piece that is a detailed summary of the corruption at Grady Hospital, Emory University and beyond. The first few comments were fine, however since much of my piece linked to my own blog, soon enough people noticed they were reading a conservative. Here are some of the comments that followed.

This is being cross posted with permission of Mike Volpe of Proprietor Nation
A quick look at the blogroll of PN gives us: RedState, Powerline, Michelle Malkin, LGF, Hot Air, Captain's Quarters, etc., etc. Judging by your comment about the radio show, I'm assuming you are "snooper." The top story on your personal blog is "The Leftinistra Brainwashing Our Youth." That blog's tagline currently reads: Dedicated to the men and women of the United States Military fighting the Islamic Menace that our government has wrongly mistaken as a peaceful religion. Call me cynical, but these things make me question your motives for posting here, as well as your read on the situation with Grady Hospital, given your inherent bias.


You have destroyed any credibility you might have here at dKos by the sources you've used in this diary. Your entire theory hinges on the ravings of a far-right loon and the company he keeps, yet you claim that to be "irrelevant."You despise Vernon Jones; we get it. GA Kossacks despise him, as well, so you're not likely to make any new converts. No one outside GA has the time to care. There's a primary or two coming up in the next few weeks, if you hadn't heard.How will that make the Democratic party look? Please. Concern troll much?


Here are Mike Volpe's "recommended blogs" (3+
/ 0-
Recommended by:
joanneleon, sbdenmon, irishwitch
Tygrrrr Express
Twin Cities Conservative
The Mortgage Reports
The Minority Report
Take Our Country Back
Simon Power
Red State
Powerline Blog
No Hillary Clinton
Michelle Malkin
Michael Yon
Michael Totten
Little Green Footballs
Iraq the Model
Hot Air
Hinz Sight Report
Gerry Charlotte Phelps
Faultline USA
Draft General Pace
Deborah Lipstadt
David Frum
Daniel Pipes
Captains Quarters
Austin Bay

Side note: There is a lot of room for abuse when inner city hospitals are used as teaching hospitals for universities -- that particular symbiotic relationship is a very tricky one. At the same time, this write-up is at least 75% innuendo. It reads to me like Emory is the presumptive "bad guy," when in actuality the problem is lack of oversight in hospital administration. So, no, poor medical care for the indigent is not a partisan issue, but the way this is written up sure seems to have a David Horowitz ring to it. I think you could re-assemble these facts without that central assumption and have a piece that would get a better reception.

Here is my personal favorite...

And libelous bulls$%t at that.They've got a good law school, too. You might invest in an alumni directory, unless Michael Horowitz has already lined up an attorney for you.

So, does everyone understand? I am wrong because I am a Conservative, and Emory can't be corrupt because they have a good law school. As Kevin Kuritzky pointed out to me long ago, this is not a partisan issue, it is an issue of corruption. The irony is that almost all of the allies I have gotten on this story are themselves Democrats. The worst part was that I was arguing with people who had never heard of this story before. They proceeded to think that they knew more than me and they were confident in their thoughts because I was linked to a Conservative. (at this point they still assumed that theprovacateur and Mike Volpe were two different people) For instance, I got this comment...

Yes, I read the piece. Mike Volpe alleges four professors were "paid off" -- but only gives information about one. The link shows that Dr. Murtaugh's lawsuit centers on not getting a promotion, and he get a settlement. He also alleged medicare fraud. But to say that the settlement was a payoff to silence him about the medicare fraud is a gross oversimplification.I conceded that there was probably some wrongdoing by Emory. But you completely ignored my point that this piece is fundamentally dishonest because of its anti-Emory framing -- it seems like very few of the issues are actually Emory's fault. They get paid 50 million because they staff the hospital and inner city hospitals don't staff
themselves. By doing so, you are conceding the innuendo argument.

I'm assuming that you're repeating this and are being used, and are not a troll yourself. Think of our reaction this way: suppose a diary comes up that focuses on an important misuse of CIA intelligence that led to the Iraq War, but frames it as being the fault of Senator Rockefeller because he was on the Intelligence Committee. You and I can agree on the importance of the problem, but find the framing dishonest. That's what we're saying here, and I'm not criticizing you, just trying to get you to see that supporting the recognition of the problem doesn't mean uncritically accepting everything in a diary about the problem...

This poster is referring to four doctors that I said were paid off. They say that I have no evidence because I have little to say about any of them besides one, Dr. Jim Murtaugh, and this poster seems to find this as evidence of my shotty reporting. Keep in mind they were paid off and silenced, and so by nature there will be little evidence of the specifics of each case. The only reason that Murtaugh's case came up is that State Senator David Shafer lead a Congressional delegation to unseal the settlement. Furthermore, someone at Kos laughably claims that my piece is dishonest because I take a preconceived bias. First, I do. I am certainly biased against the administration. This comes after two months of research in which I have concluded that they pilfer Grady Hospital, land a sweetheart deal at the tax payer's expense, and pay off or expel anyone that gets in their way. (they will even make articles disappear from internet archives if it is discovered those will make them look bad) Of course, what is laughable is the Kos claiming that an arguement is flawed if it is biased. If that is the case, they have condemned each of their own diaries.

What was really insulting is that I have no doubt that almost no one I was arguing with had even heard of Grady Hospital before I pointed it out to them. The only reason this became confrontational is because they thought that a Conservative had provided the sourcing. At this point, I have spoken with so many insiders on so many angles of this scandal that the only people that know more about it are the insiders themselves. I have traced tentacles to the Dekalb Police Department, the WellCare Scandal, and I am now working on connections to real estate developers and possibly even the Dixie Mafia. I bring this up not to toot my own horn but so that everyone understands how well I understand this story. For someone to challenge me without knowing much of anything is simply insulting.

Of course, the lunacy is not exclusive to the left of the blogosphere. I got into a verbal joust with some commenters on the Georgia blog, Peach Pundit. There were mostly Republicans and Georgia residents and so their problem with me was entirely different. Here are some examples of the comments...

Fascinating that you are so connected and interested while living in Illinois. And as far as Derwin Brown. He was my sheriff and a good man. His death was heinous. So is your ridiculous attempt to tie it into this mess.


It isn’t “going private” at all. Just being restructured as a non-profit, likely with state funds being provided. And given the way the laws work down here regarding following state money, I doubt it will be “impossible” to follow the money. Interesting that you throw around the term private since from the beginning that’s been a codeword for many of the anti task force activists down here.But what do I know? It’s not like I ever talk to anyone involved.


Oh thank the good Lord above we gots somebody smart to show us the way. Not
one of us ignorant hicks have ever questioned why some many consulting firms
were hired. Not one of us have questioned the mismanagement of Grady. Lord bless
us all that we now have this fine man to show us the way. To lead us out of the
wildereness where we are all a party to such sin.


Oh I don’t know, Jace. Maybe the repetitive condescension that we don’t know what’s going on. Repeatedly ignoring the fact that some have raised many of the same questions. Conspiratorially tying the Derwin Brown murder to corruption of Grady. Transitively tying any questioning of his theories into sheeplike acquiesence to being rolled by the Devil. Continually making Charles Walker’s conviction about Grady when mostly it was not. And even when us ignorant hicks refute points fall right back to saying we don’t know what we are talking about.It could be that unless we see through the God-given clear lens of Mike Volpe, we just don’t know what the hell we are talking about.Nah. It’s none of that.

In this case, it came down to tone and territory. I was too confrontational and condescending, and of course I wasn't from Georgia. I got only one defender on the site...

Why does everyone seem out to get this “mike volpe” guy? He is raising some interesting points

There are several things here. First, as I later pointed out, Derwin Brown was never sheriff because he was murdered (by the outgoing sheriff and a conspiracy of deputies and others in the police department) so the initial statement is not only condescending but factually wrong.

Second, the death of Derwin Brown and the corruption at Grady can be tied to one man, Vernon Jones, who was connected to both. (He is still currently the CEO of Dekalb County and not only overlooks the DEKALB POLICE DEPARTMENT, which Brown was elected sheriff of, but he also picks the board at Grady Hospital) Whether or not the corruption is linked directly together or not is up for debate, however I have no doubt that at minimum there is a culture of corruption that links all of it together.

Now, as for the reference to the new plan by the Grady Task Force, it is too in depth for an explanation here, so if you want to know my thoughts, please read my piece on it. (also, I welcome you to read the recommendations that me and my allies have come up with for Grady Hospital)

Also, they claim that most of the corruption committed by State Senator Charles Walker wasn't at Grady Hospital. While this is true, Walker's crime was expansive and not very picky, most of the evidence of his corruption came from whistleblower Joyce Harris, who was the head of H.R. at Grady Hospital.

Their points finally turned from factually wrong to absurd with this comment...

Is it possible that the convictions were tagged on solely to Walker because folks were out to get him? I’m not saying he didn’t do wrong - believe me, as an Augusta native, he did a lot of things wrong and deserved punishment - but he also had a lot of guys gunning for him, particularly a lot of folks in Augusta.

Could it be that the focus was to get Walker and not to investigate Grady? And that getting Walker meant piling up the felony charges?

Here is how I refuted it...

If they were “out to get him”, why did he get ten years for 127 felonies or less than a month per felony. Folks weren’t “out to get him”. Folks were out to keep his affair as quiet as they could. If the chief prosecution witness fingers everyone, then why isn’t anyone else investigated?If Walker committed so much crime that it lead to 127 felony convictions, and people were on the level, they would want to follow it further and see if the hospital involved had systemic corruption in and that lead to his crimes? That is, if people were on the level.

My point was never disputed and ultimately nothing I said in any of the debate was proven inaccurate. (something I can't say for those that I argued with)

I bring up these factual points to once again point out that I was arguing with people that were frankly a lot less knowledgeable. Once again, rather than focusing on the merits of the corruption and finding ways to connect through the power of the internet, these commenters made me the story.

The facts were no less important to these Georgia Republicans than they were to Kos liberals.
I was combative and an outsider, they immediately assumed I was wrong. They never had their facts straight, but that didn't stop them from arguing. Ultimately, rooting out the corruption in their own state wasn't the important thing. What was important was "beating" so to speak an outsider that they felt was demeaning their state.

In both cases, an opportunity was lost for people to band together to take on bad folks. Instead, it turned into the twenty first century technological version of a school yard arguement. Rather than focusing on the real bad guys, the ones perpetrating the corruption at Grady, Emory and beyond, they focused on me. I went out searching for allies in a story that not only needs to be told, but found the worst of human nature in folks from both sides of the aisle.


I realize that anyone that picks up this story somewhere in the middle may get quite confused. For instance, if you happen to read this particular piece but you aren't familiar with the goings on at Grady, you will likely get lost in this particular story. Thus, I have put together a summary of the entire fiasco that tries to put all of its moving parts together in one piece. Please read it for guidance. Also, please check out the recommendations that I and my colleagues have put together for fixing Grady Hospital.

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