LOS ANGELES - It's tight. It's awfully tight. But way beyond demented pollmania permeating every nook and cranny of the multibillionaire election circus - coupled with the torrential vomiting of the Spin Machine scary monsters and super freaks - these are the stark facts.
To become the next president of the United States (POTUS), Mitt Romney's got to win Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Virginia and Arizona.
As it stands, hours before the foreign policy debate this Monday in Boca Raton, Florida, Barack Obama maintains a slight lead, 3 to 2 (Ohio, Colorado and Arizona versus Virginia and Florida where, until recently, he was also leading; now, according to Nate Silver's projections, Romney's chance of winning Florida are at 66%).
Still, Obama is relatively comfy on top in Iowa (66%), New Hampshire (63%), Nevada (73%), Pennsylvania (89%) and Wisconsin (80%).
The Obama slide had been relentless, non-stop, ever since the first debate; it was only barely reversed for the past three days. Even so, Romney must win all these swing states if he can't swing Ohio, which is leaning towards Obama by 70%.
Mitt "Binders Full of Women" will come out all (Libyan) guns blazing at the last debate because he cannot afford to lose anywhere. Ultimately, if he doesn't swing those undecided Ohio ladies, the fat lady herself will sing.
Sing what? It could be anything from The Star Spangled Banner - the Jimi Hendrix version - to We Shall Overcome. Well, here in California, it's more like Booker T and the MG's Time Is Tight. That's the Roving Eyemobile's official theme song - as our made in Detroit noir car, a grey Mustang (supporting US jobs) crisscrosses Southern California in search of what's left of the American dream.
Los Angeles, LA, Hollywood, whatever you wanna call it, this is a town that lies for a living - not a bad metaphor of both the US government and Mitt "Binders Full of Women". Come up with the appropriate soundstage, set design and a few catchy lines - plot is just a detail - and Hollywood will lie till it dies, or rather till it survives endless tequila sunrise shots.
The LA Weekly is running a tournament to elect the best LA novel ever, which has to be a noir masterpiece. (See here.)
The Roving Eye - a former Hollywood resident and perennial literature fanatic - takes no sides; I would vote for anything from Thomas Pynchon's psychedelic Inherent Vice to Raymond Chandler's black as hell The Big Sleep, passing through Scott Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon and anything by James Ellroy, especially The Black Dahlia.
Of course, there's always the possibility of interpreting Obama vs Mitt as a noirish saga of love lost, betrayal and crime (financial, military, imperial and otherwise). Leave that to a disaster movie screenplay-to-be.
Back to reality. To paraphrase the late great Ginsberg, I have seen the best and worst minds of past generations starving, silent, practically naked - or even respectably clothed - plowing LA's mean streets at night looking not for an angry fix, but for a soup kitchen.
To check out on the bottom end of the 47%, I just had to drive by night to downtown LA, further down Los Angeles street, and then follow the dark clouds coming down all across the Los Angeles river.
That did not prevent me from finding a decently attired 55-year-old Air Force veteran begging near UCLA in upscale Brentwood. I gave him some help, asked "Why?" and he answered, "Check with the US government". The gleaming outposts of the industrial-military complex - from Boeing to Lockheed Martin - are not that far away, around LAX.
In the world according to Mitt Romney, this Air Force vet doesn't pay enough taxes, is a victim, and doesn't take personal responsibility for his life. By the way, in Mittworld the vet is joined by US soldiers in combat, firefighters, steelworkers, security guards, police officers and, yes, high school teachers - who draw an average wage of US$54,000, usually their only source of income to support a family of four or five.
I also followed the surf trail from Laguna Beach to Dana Point and San Clemente - where small enterprises still deliver sweatshop-free, first class made-in-the-USA manufactured products, which threw me back to my teenage years when every hip kid wanted a Hobie cat, a Gordon & Smith skateboard and a Dewey Weber surfboard.
When I went for a couple of sweatshirts I bought American - James Perse, a new, chic, LA clothing company successfully competing with delocalized corporate behemoths. It's quite a shock to see that label Made in USA instead of - well, it's inevitable - Made in China.
LA, of course, is as much in Asia as in America. My dry cleaner is Cantonese; my local bakery in Brentwood is Korean; my Thai curry fix is still there in Thai town. But I was particularly keen on meeting Asia's 1/10th of the 1%, for whom California remains The Promised Land, essentially thanks to Silicon Valley and Hollywood.
And then I found him, Mr 1% China, on Rodeo Drive, gleefully photographing a spectacular black-and-yellow Bugatti Veyron 16.4 along with his quite extended family.
He was a successful businessman from Xiamen, sporting a Hollywood baseball cap and carrying a black crocodile Chanel bag worth the entire GDP of northern Syria (which, by the way, is sending prospective political refugees to California in increasing numbers).
I asked Mr 1% China about Mitt's announced currency/trade war against the Middle Kingdom. His laughter boomed all the way to the canyons and way deep into the Pacific.
Rodeo, Beverly and Canon Drive are living demonstrations of the top 1/10th of 1% rolling in dough. They are back to 25% of the US's total income; that includes a sizeable lot of Tehrangeles - the Iranian-American diaspora.
Tax rates for the 1/10th of the 1% are lower than ever; so let's party like it's ... 2007. At least in California, the overwhelming majority - following Hollywood's dictate - votes Obama. Translation, Thai-style: same same but different.
It's pivoting time
Crisscrossing Southern California, one suspects Mitt Romney may have employed a secret Hollywood hustler as ghost adviser; after all he's essentially paying his nearly $5 trillion-in-tax-cuts plan with a platinum card. Sounds like those Hollywood projects which are forever "in development".
A Tax Policy Center (TPC) nonpartisan study has revealed that Romney's way to make his 20% below George W Bush-era levels tax cut plan "revenue neutral" - which would be to cap deductions at $17,000 - would raise just $1.7 trillion over 10 years.
The TPC had to apologize for Mitt's trademark lack of specifics on just about everything regarding his plan, stressing that that makes the analysis imperfect.
After Asia Times Online reported it last Thursday (see Mitt the Binder, Asia Times Online, October 19, 2012) the New York Times and other US websites are also waking up to Mitt's economic hit man, Glenn Hubbard.
It's never enough to remember that professor Hubbard was key in justifying the humongous mortgage derivatives bubble at the heart of the Dubya-sanctioned Great Recession; call him the Toxic Derivative King. Palpable consequences include an astronomic $7 trillion - and counting - depreciation of home values, the over $700 billion bailout of Wall Street, and perennial high unemployment, which the Romney campaign describes, with a straight face, as an Obama concoction.
And yes; Hubbard was the ultimate architect of the Bush tax cuts. In terms of getting a cut himself, he is no slouch; only in 2011 he pocketed a cool $785,000 for sitting on three different corporate boards and as a consultant to Freddie Mac, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.
Now imagine Hubbard as Mitt's Secretary of the Treasury. Couple his financial weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) with Iran's non-existent WMDs as the pretext for the next US Middle East war, plus this three-month-old Los Angeles Times bombshell about Romney financing Bain Capital with shady foreign funds and boasting returns worthy of a major crime syndicate, and we got the perfect plot advancement for our LA noir screenplay.
To counter so much darkness, the Roving Eyemobile extended its trail - with a glance at Camp Pendleton where Marines get ready for that "pivoting" towards Asia-Pacific - all the way to the quintessential industrial-military complex town, San Diego, for a long, uplifting conversation with a blessed soul; Tom Feeley, the founder and editor of Information Clearing House - one of a select few, absolutely indispensable websites to learn about assorted Empire business.
Tom's newsletter is now reaching 79,000 global daily readers - and counting, a great deal of them US expats quite familiar with Empire shenanigans. It doesn't take a James Joyce to truly appreciate an Irishman's conversation; ours, in a word, was priceless. We agreed that the whole geopolitical groove as it's moving increasingly resembles a Beckett play, minus the hieratic elegance.
I ended this Southern California swing back "home" - as in the Frolic Room, Hollywood's ultimate dive, among drifters, punks and instant philosophers of the 47% variety. It certainly beats reading a RAND corporation report.
The Frolic Room - with its superb neon sign - is where the real Black Dahlia used to sip her martinis in the 1940s, before she was delivered her Big Sleep, tragically, horrendously murdered. And now we wait - not for death, which is a certainty, but for Obama and Mitt to show us at least the glimpse of a worthy vision, a palpable dream.
Forget it; a Hollywood lie is all we're gonna get.