America Does Have Talent, But Republicans Want to Kill It:
A friend wanted the Rude Pundit to watch a clip from the television show America's Got Talent, which he agreed to do even though he thinks that, if a program has the word "talent" in the title and features Sharon Osborne and Howie Mandel, someone hasn't thought this through. "You gotta see this idiot," she said as she brought up a video of Brian Jackson, a man who said he held the world record for blowing up hot water bottles with his breath, which makes you pity the good people at Guinness. And there Jackson was, brought onto the main stage, a beefy guy who looked like he had figured out this cool bar trick in exchange for a beer and a shot.

The minute started, with accompanying music, and Jackson grabbed a hot water bottle and started huffing into it with all his might. With the audience jeering and raising their arms in an x-shape, with at least one of the judges buzzing him off, he made the thick rubber bag expand and expand, but it did not explode. And the minute ended with the guy winded, the people booing, and the judges pitiless. They were different bottles than he had used before, he explained, which seemed like a weak excuse. And, a failure at this most meager of tasks, Jackson walked away. The Rude Pundit's friend was merrily entertained.

No, it wasn't a talent, not even in the remotest sense of the word, and Jackson was an idiot to agree to go on national television. And while these shows traffic in feeding the delusional Christians to the lions of the crowd, there was just something so utterly degrading about the entire spectacle. Here was a working class guy who was set-up by the producers to not just fail for the sake of entertainment, but to be an instigator to turning an audience of, one expects, peers against him. For, indeed, only few are chosen for their particular awesome- or awfulness to be seen by the judges and the audience. It's not an open mike. And the people had been prompted how to react, how to gesture, how to make their fascist rally arm cross, how to feel superior to someone like them. Divide and conquer, man. Divide and conquer.

The Rude Pundit thought about Brian Jackson and his never-popping hot water bottle while he read about the latest attacks on working people by state legislatures and governors. See, it's not that New Jersey is seeking to raise state workers' contributions on health care and pensions. It's that the bill that made its way through committee stops collective bargaining on health care. It's the ongoing battle over collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, in Massachusetts, in Ohio, in Illinois, in places Democratic and, especially, Republican, under the notion that this is somehow the way that everyone sacrifices for the good of some broad, undefinable "economy." Meanwhile, wages have stagnated as union membership has fallen. Somehow, surely, this is just the fault of greedy union workers. It always has been the workers' fault for demanding fairness, according to management. Why should these greedy bastards get decent health care when you can't find a job?

And this is how we get back to Brian Jackson. There's a political calculation being made here, as there so often is. They are pitting unemployed and non-union workers against the unionized state employees, who often have enviable job security in an insecure job market, by making those unionized government workers the target. It doesn't matter that the benefits gotten through collective bargaining make up for the shit wages. Boo to that; raise your arms in an X to get it swept away. Hope for failure and embarrassment. Turn on each other and give power and profit to the people behind the curtain, again and again.