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"The latest staredown on Capitol Hill. Last-minute Senate negotiations avert another mess -- or do they? And why it pays to have Washington's Valium concession. It's all ahead right here on...The Shutdown Network!"
"Hey, thanks for tuning in -- Bob here, along with Steve-O and the beauticious Renee, bringing you the lowdowns on the slowdowns, and right on top when the government comes to a stop."
"Which happens pretty much all the time these days, Bobby."
"Right you are, O!"
"Or at least the threat of it."
"Right again! Which is why it takes a full-time news desk to keep you up to date on the Wonderful World of Part-Time Government."
"And aren't we the lucky ones, Renee, to have one of those news desks right here in our building! And what a lucky break for all our viewers, right?"
"Especially since our graphics already say 'The Shutdown Network' -- "
"Instead of, say, 'Motocross Highlights'?"
"Almost like we're performing an actual public service -- "
"Which is more than our so-called 'public servants' can say! So Steve-O, how about you bring us up to date on the latest threats of carnage?"
"Your wish is my command, Madame! Well, they've stepped back from the brink in that FEMA-funding shutdown -- at least for the moment -- with a four-day fix to get 'em through the weekend, and another one that'll take 'em all the way to mid-November."
"Six whole weeks! Way to calm those markets!"
"That's if they can get the House on board."
"Always a crapshoot, right? Boehner's Boys threaten to pull the plug the way some folks drink coffee: a couple of times a day, just to keep sharp."
"And, of course, by that time this latest little sliver of a deal runs out, they'll be able to shut things down over much bigger numbers -- the entire 2012 budget, for instance, plus all those recommendations coming out of that budget 'super-committee.'"
"And the chance that the two parties could reach an agreement in November without shutdown threats?"
"About the same chance that Obama buys a vacation home with Eric Cantor."
"So you're not holding your breath."
"Bobby, I'm not holding my breath. In the meantime, though, a full slate of shutdown games coming up this weekend, starting with the move by the House Symbolic Gestures Committee to turn out the lights if the Dems don't agree to require all government employees to wear prison suits whenever they're out in public."
"Fashion forward, you trash collectors! The Dems likely to cave on that one?"
"Too early to tell, Renee, but you hardly ever go wrong betting on the Dems to cave on something. Then there's the fight over the House Chaplain's opening prayer -- some of the GOP freshmen on the Select Committee on Pandering want it spelled out that Almighty God is solely responsible for the weather -- "
"'Totally natural, nothing man-made' -- that's what they're demanding, or they say they'll shut the government down."
"And the Pelosi flip?"
"Not a flip-flop, mind you -- just a flip. Apparently some of these same freshmen don't like the former Speaker's latest hairdo, and they're telling her she has to change it by next Monday or -- "
" -- they'll shut the government down."
"How'd you know?"
"Lucky guess. OK, thanks, Steve-O! Coming up after the break: A psychologist with some amazing suggestions for 'stress-testing' America's voters. And is the Obamas' dog next on the budget chopping block? Straight ahead, so don't -- "
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Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.