Picking up on Laura Vozella’s harrowing wee-hours dispatch about the Purple Bus Line of Doom: This Republican convention does have, like any convention, a suffocating command-and-control quality that invites such adjectives as “Stalinist.”

The obvious comparison is that one spends a lot of time standing in lines, like a Muscovite back in the day waiting and waiting for the chance to buy a few beets. To be fair, the security screeners are very efficient – they can wand a beeping reporter in less than 5 seconds – but the profusion of checkpoints and credentials checks carries with it an inevitable psychological effect. We learn that this is not a land of freedom.

Exits are blocked. You can’t even walk down the waterfront without running into a barrier. Message: You can’t go that way.

And it’s not a free-market economy, at least within the perimeter. At the official Romney-Ryan store in the Tampa Bay Times Forum, an adult-sized T-shirt costs $30. Or you can drop $5 on a bumper sticker or $40 on an iPhone case. Not cheap. They can make this stuff in China for about a quarter of that. But see, it’s not a normal purchase: It’s part of a cause. The purchases are officially and legally a contribution (according to a sign at the register) to “Romney Victory, Inc.” And by the way, you have to give your name and address when you buy something – it’s federal law.

A cup of coffee in the convention center will set you back $2.75. The convention center itself will deliver a jumbo pot of coffee for a rumored price of $50. Or you can find the coffee stand on the third level where they’re giving it away for free, and good stuff at that. There are basically two prices on everything within the security zone: Overpriced and free.

The layers of the security onion are deep. Never mind the $50 million given by the federal government to the city of Tampa to bring in police and hire new uniforms and mountain bikes and, who knows, helicopters and submarines. The Secret Service is in charge of “the Perimeter” and there are other agencies and the National Guard on hand, so you really can’t find a water fountain without passing someone who looks like he’s ready to fight an invasion of giant spiders.