ATTENDING A major-party political convention is a lot like putting a metal dish into a microwave. You know something bad's going to happen, but after four years you need to be reminded of the acrid smell. Whatever was wafting over Denver and St. Paul this summer, it certainly wasn't the fine, fresh scent of freedom (even if I did spy a Ron Paul banner behind a Cessna on the last day of the Republican National Convention). Both friendly cities became concentrated police states, where local and state and even national law enforcement dressed up like hyper-militarized Ninja Turtles, just in case any loose scattering of "anarchists" was able to assemble a division of tanks. Almost every type of local business I frequented complained of drastically reduced sales, as sensible locals fled far from the scene rather than watch the gruesome spectacle of thousands expressing actual enthusiasm for 19th century political parties that ran out of fresh ideas long ago.