Has the United States, the most powerful nation on earth, been led for the past eight years by a crime syndicate?
Many Americans would recoil at such a thought. "We're not Sicily," they would say.
But a growing body of evidence suggests we might be more like Sicily than we care to admit. And the latest grim evidence came Friday evening when a plane crashed in a residential area near Akron, Ohio.
The pilot and lone occupant of the plane, Michael Connell, was killed. Connell was an information-technology expert for the Republican Party and was set to testify in a lawsuit about possible rigging of elections in Ohio.
Connell and his wife, Heather, reportedly had received threats from GOP strategist Karl Rove, and attorneys in the Ohio case had asked the U.S. Justice Department to provide protection for the Connells.
Larisa Alexandrovna, of the blog at-Largely, said Connell had become a central witness in the Ohio election-fraud case.
The Akron Beacon Journal followed up with a story today, focusing on Connell's connections to the Bush family and possible election fraud. Bob Fitrakis, an attorney who helped bring the Ohio lawsuit, said Connell's death "sent a chill down my spine."
"He was the Bush family's IT guru. He had tremendous knowledge and information."
Velvet Revolution, an election-reform Web site, reported that one of its investigators had been talking with Connell about ways he could come forward with information about vote rigging.
Connell, an experienced pilot, had to abort two recent planned flights out of fear that his plane had been sabotaged, VR reports. A Connell associate had told VR that Connell was responsible for destruction of Bush White House e-mails and setting up an off-the-grid e-mail system.
Friday night's plane crash is under investigation, and a likely cause is not expected to be known for months.
Mark Crispin Miller, reporting at his blog News From Underground, writes about a growing list of people who have met untimely ends while getting close to information about alleged dirty tricks during the Bush/Rove era.
The title of Miller's post? "Bloody Karl."
As a resident of Alabama, I've seen signs of a possible Bush/Rove crime syndicate. In fact, I would argue that such an organization probably has its roots in Alabama, thanks to Rove's electoral success in state-court races in the 1990s.
Here's a prediction: If U.S. Rep. John Conyers, incoming Attorney General Eric Holder, and a few gutsy journalists ever get to the bottom of the Bush Justice Department scandal, several key players will have connections to Alabama.
Consider just a few events in this neck of the woods:
* Votes for Democratic incumbent Don Siegelman mysteriously disappear in the middle of the night in Baldwin County, Alabama, giving Republican challenger Bob Riley a "victory" in the 2002 gubernatorial election;
* Two subsequent criminal prosecutions target Siegelman. One in Birmingham flops; one in Montgomery is "successful;"
* A house fire and an automobile "accident" involve Republican whistleblower and attorney Jill Simpson;
* Questionable prosecutions, against a Democratic state legislator (see Schmitz, Sue) and a defense contractor who had supported the Democratic Party (see Latifi, Alex), become a common tactic.
For what it's worth, my unlawful termination at UAB has the fingerprints of Alabama Republicans all over of it, and some of them have connections to Karl Rove. This suggests that GOP corruption has not only infected Alabama's executive and judicial branches, but also our system of higher education.
And next door in Mississippi, attorney Paul Minor and former state judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield remain in federal prison because of a case that has "political prosecution" written all over it.
Let's leave, for now, with these questions:
What was in the off-the-grid e-mail system that Michael Connell helped set up? Did it include information about the Siegelman prosecutions, the Paul Minor case, the 2002 governor's race, efforts to silence Jill Simpson, and more?
Was Michael Connell the "man who knew too much?"