by Gilles d'Aymery
"Democracy, democracy, democracy. Politicians in the U.S. are consistently peppering their communications with that word. No matter what dubious policy they are out to sell they will wrap it up with a copious supply of democracy."
—Philip Greenspan, February 14, 2005
(Swans - April 7, 2008) AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: A reader wonders how come I dared refer to the U.S. as "this most undemocratic country" in my Blips #67 -- certainly a crime of lèse majesté in some quarters of the American polity, and yet another evidence of my so-called entrenched anti-American sentiments (perhaps I should insert a smiley here -- ☺ -- done -- as it reminds me of "Un-American, Fly-Shit Melody," a piece I wrote in December 2001). But wait a moment. While I'm no expert on the issue and would rather defer to Carol Warner Christen, whose knowledge of these questions is far greater than mine, let me take a crack at it (from my Martian perspective, of course).
FIRST AND FOREMOST, the United States is supposedly a Constitutional Republic, not a democracy. The Founding Fathers feared the power of the hoi polloi. For them, the direct expression of the masses would lead to a mobocracy and thwart the moneyed interests of the wealthy (the famed "property rights," which are the cornerstone of capitalism). Keep in mind that the mythological Founding Fathers belonged to the moneyed elite. They devised a clever system that would keep power within the hands of the privileged few (which has worked marvels ever since). The legal document -- the Constitution -- they concocted was, and remains, a top-down exercise in mass-control. It had nothing to do with democracy. So eager were they to ratify that societal corset, which created a very modest and watered-down form of representative democracy, that they swallowed the Bill of Rights, which they largely opposed in the first place. To learn more on this historical and most undemocratic blunder, visit or revisit the writing of the endearing Philip Greenspan. Three articles come to mind: "Democracy, Let's Bring It Here" (June 18, 2007), "The Founding Fathers' Fraud" (June 18, 2007), and "Condemn That Contemptible Constitution" (July 16, 2007). In his uniquely direct style, Phil repeatedly deconstructed the sham that is the object of so much discombobulation. Note in passing that the opponents of democracy and the harbingers of the Constitution are most often found in the company of the most extreme right-wing strands of American society (e.g., the John Birch Society) and their Libertarian cousins (e.g., Lew Rockwell, et al.), all supported, in one way or another, by moneyed interests.
THE "REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY" took a turn for the worst in the early 20th century. To make it short, there were discussions as to how many constituents a congressman (they were all males. Remember, women were not allowed to vote) would represent. The Founding Fathers debated the pros and cons of 30 or 40,000 constituents per each representative. Every decade, after a census, the number of representatives would grow proportionally to the growth of the population. They eventually settled on a 50 to 60,000 number. However, in 1913 or there about, Congress decided to limit the number of representatives to a maximum of 435. Again, I'm being real short here. If you want to know more, try thirty-thousand.org. From then on, the one-person-one-vote got diluted by the sheer growth of the population. Nowadays, a representative "represents" close to 700,000 constituents (except in a handful of states whose population does not even reach that number). Have you tried to contact your congressperson lately? Heard of constituents' services? Ever received a form letter in response to your inquiry or your grievance? Has any grievance of yours received attention?
APPORTIONMENT DECISIONS by the states' legislatures and governors, which are under the control of the two major parties (aka, the bicephalous system), assure that over 90 percent of the 435 seats are safe and the incumbents get reelected time and again. The principle of one-person-one-vote is weakened by the practice of political gerrymandering or jurisdictional gerrymandering -- the process to delineate, or divide each electoral district to advantage either the Democrat or Republican candidates. Moreover, that practice, rarely successfully challenged in the courts (see Professor of Law at Columbia University Michael C. Dorf's May 12, 2004 analysis on FindLaw), imposes an immense burden on third-party candidates who want to challenge the two major parties, thus considerably restricting voters' choice.
THE DUOPOLY IS FURTHER ENTRENCHED through a maze of very restrictive, stringent, and cumbersome ballot-access laws that vary from state to state and are essentially devised to repress third-party candidacies at the local, state, and national levels. An independent candidate or a third party must collect a high number of signatures or a percentage of a state's voters within strict deadlines in order to petition the state to have access to the ballot. Each state sets its own rules, which can be altered or changed from one election cycle to another, and whose only commonality is to create an ever-rising and ever-changing obstacle course for non Democrat or Republican challengers. These drastic restrictions give the lie to the fundamental rights of one-person-one-vote in a democratic society. (See Richard Winger's excellent Ballot Access News; read his 1994 analysis, "The Importance of Ballot Access"; and check Ballot access on Wikipedia.)
DISENFRANCHISEMENT is another methods used by states to limit the democratic right to vote. A person convicted of a felony loses access to the ballot. In some states, that loss can be indefinite; in others, only during the time spent in jail, or for five years afterward; people on parole or on probation can be disenfranchised; a person convicted of a state crime can be forbidden to vote in a federal, presidential election. Over 5 million Americans are thus stripped from their fundamental right to vote. Minorities are particularly affected by this phenomenon. (See The Sentencing Project and the entry on Wikipedia.) There is another form of disenfranchisement that takes place through political intimidation and the manipulation of states' voter lists (cf. Florida in 2000), but I have no estimated number for that category. Neither do I have a number for legal residents who are not authorized to vote for any elective positions, whether local, state, or national. I ought to know: I've lived in the U.S. for over 25 years, of which over 15 are in California, but I cannot vote, not even county-wise. I sure can, and am forced to, pay my taxes though (remember the old revolutionary saying, "no taxation without representation"?), and am regularly prodded to contribute money to local, state, and federal political candidates -- for whom I cannot vote. Very democratic indeed!
IF THAT'S NOT ENOUGH, if the techniques to suppress the democratic will of the people are not sufficient to control the masses, the mythical Founding Fathers, or their followers (I'd need input from Carol Warner Christen on the exact chronology), added two safeguards to make sure that actual power would remain within the hands of the moneyed elites: Plurality voting and the electoral college. There are obviously plenty of pros and cons in regard to a plurality voting within a winner-take-all system, but from a majority, democratic rule, the system leaves much to be desired. Bill Clinton became president in 1993 with only 43 percent of the popular vote (i.e., 57% voted against him, or for other candidates). In 1997, he won reelection with once again a minority of the electorate (but with a plurality of the votes, 49.2%). No one will ever know what would have happened in 1992-1993 had the U.S. followed a majority system, with a runoff election. Would the Ross Perot voters have voted for Bush Senior, Bill Clinton, or just stayed home? Mr. Bush (Junior) was elected in 2000 with a helpful hand from the Supreme Court although he had received far fewer votes than his Democratic opponent, Al Gore. Time and again, the will of the people is ignored -- the one-member-one-vote principle is disregarded in favor of the status quo. Then, to make certain, that majority rule is thwarted, the Electoral College provides a disproportionate power to the electorate of smaller states. In other words, some votes count more than the vast majority. It may be a working electoral system, but it certainly is not democratic. (Actually, the system works rather poorly if one takes into account the low participation of voters in this quadrennial charade.)
ANOTHER SHENANIGAN, which is not strictly anti-democratic but demonstrates to what extent the two major parties will go to keep a grip on power, is strategic voting. On the rare occasions when a third-party candidate becomes competitive to the point of threatening the duopoly, an informal alliance between the elephant and the donkey will coalesce in order to defeat the threat to their controlling power. It happens repetitively at the local and state levels. One perfect example to illustrate strategic voting is the 2003 campaign for mayor of San Francisco. Matt Gonzalez, the current running mate of Ralph Nader in the 2008 presidential election, ran as a candidate of the Green Party. His opponent was Gavin Newsom, a Democrat. San Francisco is one of a few places where majority voting rules. Since neither candidate had a majority, a runoff election took place. The Democratic Party adamantly opposed Gonzalez, an honest man, uncorrupted by power and money, wanting to work for all the people, especially those at the bottom of the food chain. The bigwigs of the Democratic Party, Bill Clinton, Al Gore (the "great" progressive and environmentalist), Senator Dianne Feinstein, Representative (and currently Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi, Jesse Jackson (another "great" progressive), and several other democratic personalities all campaigned for Newsom as they intimated that Gonzalez was a racist and a demagogue. Gonzalez, who had launched his campaign with the backing of the Greens (3 percent of the electorate) and had won over 19 percent of the vote in the first run, was outspent 5 to 1 by the Newsom campaign and yet managed to almost win the runoff election. He won a majority of Democrats and Independents but still lost. How come? The Republican electorate voted in mass for the Democrat Newsom!
TALKING ABOUT THE ELEPHANT and the nature of American democracy, one should not forget or dismiss the biggest elephant of all that strolls the land: the corporations. We have to go all the way back to 1886, as I once alluded to in my Blips #53 (July 2007). That was the year when the Supreme Court granted corporations without hearing any argument, and without truly deciding anything -- simply letting "things" stand as they may -- the same rights as people under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. It elevated the corporations to a position that has allowed them to become the ultimate rulers of the American polity in total contradiction of the Constitution (see http://www.ratical.org/corporations/SCvSPR1886.html). Of course, since they are treated like persons, the First Amendment applies to them, and they have made great use of it, especially the little clause about free speech, which has been liberally interpreted by the Supreme Court to include money spent on political campaigns and candidates as well as any form of political ads -- thus sealing the absolute triumph of the moneyed interests, which with their armies of hired lobbyists write practically all legislations of any significance.
ADD TECHNICAL SHENANIGANS such as bugs, intentional or not, in voting machines -- your vote can be attributed to a candidate for whom you did not vote (automatic name switching), or it can simply be destroyed, or lost, or miscounted -- or recounts stopped for political reasons (e.g., Florida in 2000), and you have to seriously wonder whether the voice of the People has any meaningful consequences on the affairs of state.
SO, WHAT TO CALL THIS SYSTEM? It most assuredly is not a democracy. It's hardly a representative democracy due to the absence of real representation (too few representatives who are wholly dependent on corporate money). To the risk of offending a few good souls I'd venture to assert that it is no longer a Constitutional Republic either. Let me give two examples to make the point: First, try to find anywhere in the Constitution a clause that specifies that a corporation should be treated as a person with the same rights as a human being. Don't waste your time. It's nowhere to be found. (By the way, the Constitution does not specify either that we should have a two-party system of government.) Second, so far as I know the Constitution is quite specific as to the power to declare war. Congress, and only Congress, has that power (Article 1, Section 8). Well, Congress abrogated that power, that solemn obligation, by voting in 2002 to give it to the president. One would have thought that the Supreme Court, a body that is supposed to be the ultimate Constitutional guardian, would have indicated that the abrogation of that clause in Section 8 required an amendment to the Constitution, not a simple majority vote. (Perhaps Carol will be kind enough to elaborate, especially if my interpretation is incorrect.) Nevertheless, the Court did not peep a word on that fateful vote.
NOW, CONGRESS is supposed to represent the American people, and certainly the People would have had something to say about getting into yet another war. But by giving the president carte blanche to send the country to war, the People was entirely out of the loop, with its voice muzzled. You'd think that for a decision so grave and potent as war, you'd have the famed "We the People" vote up or down a war resolution -- like, for instance, you know...a referendum. Referenda are strange animals that provide the citizenry with the absolute power on fundamental decisions that will engage the future of the country. A simple question like, "Do you want to go to war against Country X? Yes - No (Please circle your choice)," would have resulted in a clear choice by THE PEOPLE. Skeptical minds will argue that the American people would have voted overwhelming in favor of war, but with referenda strange things can happen, results can differ from the expectations of the powers that be (e.g., the April 1969 French Referendum on decentralization and reform of the Senate that went down in flames and led to the resignation of Charles de Gaulle, or the May 2005 French Referendum on the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, which the voters rejected by 55 percent); which is why this form of direct, participatory democratic vote is rarely used -- you never know how the People will decide, it can be quite destabilizing to the status quo -- and not used in the U.S., except in some states to some limited extent (like the "propositions" in California).
ANYWAY, NAMING this most undemocratic system quickly turns into a stylistic exercise. Milo Clark used to call it an "Authoritarian Bureaucracy." Phil Greenspan once wondered whether Fascism had arrived in America (Nov. 2006). Phil, who constantly advocated not voting in presidential elections (Oct. 2004), poked fun at the exercise in "Put '-ocracy' On The Proper Prefix" (Feb.. 2005). He came up with over 15 names such as: Aristocracy, Plutocracy, Corpocracy, Greedocracy, Theocracy, Pornocracy, Slavocracy, Genocidocracy, Stratocracy, Hyprocracy, Dumbocracy, Bushocracy, Neoconocracy, Collapsocracy, Blowbackocracy, and even Viagrocracy (he could have added Gerontocracy to his bon-enfant litany). Personally, I hesitate between Oligarchy, Plutocracy, and Corpocracy with a slight preference for the third one, Corpocracy, as it represents best the immense powers of the corporate world on our political institutions. There is of course another name for a system that is both corporatist and a authoritarian bureaucracy, but to mention it in good company would be unacceptable.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is America "the greatest democracy in the world?"
IT'S A GREAT SYSTEM for the moneyed heads of the corporate world. In 2007, the CEOs of 200 companies with revenues of at least $6.5 billion received a compensation of $11,703,090 on average, an increase of 5% over 2006, ranging from a symbolic $1 for Steven Jobs of Apple (don't worry though, he made over $14 million in stock option gains) and a modest $175,000 for Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway (he is worth close to $62 billion) to a staggering $83,785,021 awarded to John Thain, the new CEO of Merrill Lynch, an investment bank which revenue decreased 11% and stock value 41%. The second highest compensated chief executive was Lawrence Ellison of Oracle with $61,180,424, a 104% increase over 2006. (Source: the compensation research firm Equilar as quoted in The New York Times of April 6, 2008.) A few, like Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs (over $300 million) made even more, but the companies they preside over having revenues of less than $6.5 billion, these titans were not included in the list.
ORACLE's Ellison, ranked #12 of the Forbes 400 with a $25 billion net worth, drew my attention for two reasons. On the one hand, I have a friend who works at Oracle and who happens to have donated money to Swans. I'll have to ask him whether his compensation got a 104% boost, if you grasp my inference! (Answer: his and many colleagues' pay was cut and they have to rely more heavily on overtime to make it up.) On the other hand, Mr. Ellison made the news recently after getting a $3 million property tax break from the County of San Mateo in regard to the property he owns in Woodside (one of the wealthiest communities in the nation). According to James Temple of The SF Chronicle ("$3 million tax cut on Larry Ellison's estate," March 27, 2008)
Ellison's Octopus Holdings LP acquired the 23-acre site in May 1995 for $12 million and spent nine years constructing the lavish property, modeled on a Japanese emperor's 16th century country residence, according to the San Mateo assessment appeals board.
It consists of a nearly 8,000-square-foot main house with two wings, a guest home, three cottages and a gymnasium as well as a 5-acre man-made lake, two waterfalls and two bridges. Hundreds of mature cherry, maple and other trees were planted among nearly 1,000 redwoods, pines and oaks.
The assessor's office based its January 2005 valuation on so-called reproduction costs, the $166.3 million it should have cost to build, said Terry Flinn, deputy assessor-county clerk-recorder. Ultimately, after multiple delays and construction change orders, it ran more than $200 million.
HOWEVER, Ellison's lawyers argued that the value of the property had declined by 60 percent, even though luxury homes in Woodside have continued to appreciate in spite of the mortgage crisis. James Temple writes, "Ellison's appeal claimed the property suffered from 'significant functional obsolescence' because there is a finite market for high-end luxury homes, limited appeal for 16th-century Japanese architecture and the 'over improvements' and 'excessive' landscaping are costly to maintain." The assessor's office eventually agreed and sliced the value by some $100 million. How would the county have spent these $3 million? Forty-five percent would have gone to school districts, 21.5% percent to the county general fund, 16.7% to cities, and 7.5% to redevelopment agencies. I'm sure some people will argue that the size of his net worth and his yearly compensation should have no impact on the amount of property taxes he ought to pay to help all the residents of the county and the public school system. Told you, it's a great system -- the American Dream for the few, and the Trickle-Down Economics Myth for the many!
GOT HAD AGAIN. Two or three weeks ago I happened to watch on C-SPAN remarks that Michelle Obama delivered at a campaign rally in Villanova, PA, on March 13, 2008. She was both mystifying and electrifying as she connected with the crowd with as much eloquence as her husband, but without the condescending tones that sometimes creep up in his speeches. While I am supporter of the Nader-Gonzalez ticket, I felt that her remarks deserved to be spread to, at least, Swans readers. So, I went to barackobama.com, the Web site of the campaign, and through the contact page sent two messages -- one to "media & press inquiries," the other to "other thoughts and questions." In both cases I asked whether they had the script of Mrs. Obama's remarks and could e-mail it to me so that I would be able to publish it. I also honestly indicated that I was a Naderite, and I signed the messages with address, phone number, ISSN#. I requested that my personal information not be used and that my e-mail address be not included in whatever mailing lists the campaign maintains.
I GUESS YOU ALREADY have figured out where I am going with this tidbit, but read on if you want to learn about the new kind of politics Senator "I want you to believe" Obama has in mind. I never received the text of Mrs. Obama's speech, but three days later, in total contradiction with my request, I received an e-mail from infoATbarackobama.com, signed by David Plouffe, Campaign Manager, Obama for America, in which Mr. Plouffe waxed ecstatic about all the good things that will happen to America when he is elected. Thanks to people like me, Mr. Plouffe assured me that "Yes, we can." Followed a pitch for a donation.
I REPLIED TO THE E-MAIL and politely asked to have my e-mail address removed from their e-mail distribution list, explaining that I had specifically requested not have it included and had not given them authorization to do so. Silence. A few days later, another e-mail. They come at regular intervals, one or two a week. Every time it's a different request for support, each leading to a specific donate page on the Web site. On March 27, the subject line of Plouffe's e-mail read: "Meet Barack for dinner."
If you're wondering what it might be like to join Barack Obama and three fellow supporters for a casual dinner, you should watch this video.
From the very beginning of this campaign, Barack has rejected contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. Instead, he has relied on grassroots donors like you to support this campaign, and this is not the first time he's invited you to join him for an intimate dinner for five.
Get a glimpse of a previous dinner with Barack, and make a donation before 11:59 p.m. EDT on March 31st. You could join Barack and three other guests for an evening of good food and good conversation:
One of the folks in that video is Michael Griffith, a miner from Fernley, Nevada -- he was one of Barack's guests at a dinner last year.
We gave him a call this week and asked him to talk about the experience so that we could share it with you. Here's what he had to say about it:
"It was an awesome experience -- Barack spent hours talking to us, and at the dinner table he was just like any other guy. It really felt like somebody invited friends over for dinner and good conversation.
"My dad is a paralyzed vet, and his health care costs are huge, so I talked to the Senator about how he planned to provide for our veterans. He gave a thoughtful, detailed answer, and I could tell that taking care of our veterans was a big concern to him.
"But we didn't just talk about politics. He talked about his children, and his wife, and how much he misses his family when he's on the road. And those of us with children shared stories about our families, too. He was a funny guy, and there was a good amount of joking around. All in all, it was a great conversation.
"Ever since the dinner, I've remained active in the campaign. I was the precinct captain for my neighborhood here in Fernley, Nevada, and we won our caucus. I also went to the county convention, and we won there too.
"I'm grateful to have been a part of this, because I know that beyond winning an election, we're also changing the way politics works in this country."
People like Michael are transforming politics in this country -- not just by changing the way campaigns are funded, but by getting involved on a grassroots level and working for change in their communities.
While Senator Clinton and Senator McCain have accepted millions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs, this campaign has relied on more than a million individual donors giving only what they can afford. Just last month, more than 90% of the donations to Obama for America were for $100 or less.
If you make a donation in any amount between now and 11:59 pm EDT on Monday, March 31st, you could join Barack and three other supporters for dinner and a conversation about the issues that matter most to you.
Make a donation and share your story, and you could join Barack for an intimate dinner for five:
Thank you for your support,
Obama for America
CLICKED ON REPLY: Err, Mr. Plouffe, I don't want to have dinner with Barack Obama, who I am sure is a great conversationalist and a thoughtful man. What I want is to have my e-mail address removed from your distribution list. Could your staff oblige and honor my request? Silence. Then it was the turn of the man himself. On April 3, "Organizing Fellowship":
I want to tell you about one of the most exciting projects of this campaign. It's called the Obama Organizing Fellowship.
When I was a young man, I was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and the idea of people working at a grassroots level to bring about change.
Apply to be an Obama Organizing Fellow and put progressive values to work in the real world:
If you can't take the time away from work or your family that's required for the fellowship program, you can still get involved.
* Reach out to someone you know who may be interested in this program, and let them know we could use their help:
* House an Organizing Fellow -- If you have a spare room, you can help by offering housing to an Organizing Fellow near their training or near their eventual assignment. We haven't set locations for all of the trainings and assignments, but if you sign up, our staff will be in touch as the campaign grows:
* Support this program by making a donation to this campaign:
Being a community organizer wasn't easy, but it was the most valuable education I ever received. It taught me that together, ordinary people can do extraordinary things.
Organizing changed my life, and I hope it changes yours.
WHEN IT'S NOT Barack or David, who else could it be? But yes, of course, Michelle! April 4, "Yes, they can":
Today is the 40th anniversary of the tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and I want to share a video that reveals how far we've come and how much this campaign owes to Dr. King's legacy.
Students at a high school in the Bronx, who had no real interest in their government, have found new hope. They were surprised by their own excitement and engagement, but to me, they embody so many reasons why Barack and I decided to get into this campaign.
It's truly moving to see young people inspired by a political leader -- someone who gives them hope and reminds them that they can be anything they want to be if they work hard.
Watch what these kids have to say about politics and race in this country:
Watching these students who are excited about their own role in politics for the first time, and watching Barack as he strives to live up to the challenges Dr. King made possible, I am truly touched.
I hope you'll watch this video and share that feeling with your friends and family:
ARGH, REMOVE! REMOVE! REMOVE! I'm fully aware that these messages originate not with Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and David Plouffe, but from the campaign staff. They are cleverly designed to keep the recipient involved in one issue after the other, with a little tap on the shoulder, a subliminal caress to one's ego, and a reminder that there are so many good causes to donate: Meet Barack, become an Obama Organizing Fellow, watch a video, be inspired by a leader... It may be a new kind of politics but it looks awfully close to the old retail politics adapted to the age of the Internet with a good dose of political propaganda and psychological tricks. It's also quite similar to the daily messages found in one's e-mail box vaunting products like Viagra, cheap medicines, porn sites, etc. In this case, they are extolling the quality of a different commodity but they are resorting to an identical delivery method, SPAM -- political spam perhaps, but still spam. New kind of politics, indeed.
OH WELL, only in America, as the saying goes.
LET ME LEAVE YOU with two short snippets that are more uplifting. Last weekend Jan and I had the pleasure to meet "Swans concertmaster" Isidor Saslav and his wife Ann -- a fascinating couple with more stories to tell in a rat a tat tat of laughter and bons mots. I don't know how much Isidor would want me to relate these stories publicly, so I need to tread carefully here (and I did not take notes). Isidor was born in 1938 in Palestine from a Russian father and a Polish mother who had emigrated to the U.S. (Detroit) before going to Palestine. A year or so later, his father decided to go back to Russia -- Palestine was a violent land torn among the Zionists, the British, and the Palestinians. So he went, but Mrs. Saslavski would have nothing of it. She took young Isidor with her and journeyed back to Detroit, where she shortened the family name to Saslav. That was the end of Isidor's Zionist experience (you should hear the story of how he ended up with his first name!). Being a smart man Isidor chose the world of music instead of a world of nationalistic atavism. And in that world of music he met with some of the greatest directors, composers, and performers. They all had some incredible bon mots -- stories that I hope I'll be able to entice Ann and Isidor to lay on paper -- a compendium of funny and witty squabbles among the very best classical performers of the past half-century.
FOR BAY AREA and San Francisco residents who love books and music, here is a tip: Drive, bicycle, or walk to Clement Street and 6th Avenue and visit the two Green Apple stores. You'll find more than 50,000 new and used books and an extensive collection of CDs and DVDs. You can peruse their inventory at greenapplebooks.com. You'll also have the opportunity to visit a real Chinese neighborhood -- not the tourist attraction that Chinatown is, a real neighborhood with stores after stores that display Chinese food and wares at unbeatable prices. A real treat in these troubled times.
. . . . .
C'est la vie...
And so it goes...
La vie, friends, is a cheap commodity, but worth maintaining when one can. Supporting the life line won't hurt you much, but it'll make a heck of a difference for Swans.