Shut It Down! Boehner Blocks Bedlam, Black Bows Out

Well, that was close. The government almost shut down Friday night, but then didn’t, putting an end to weeks of speculation as to which crucial federal operations (disease control? Toxic waste cleanup?? Passport processing?!?) would be suspended while Speaker of the House John Boehner continued to be paid for providing writers across the country with an excuse to pepper their copy with thinly veiled penile references (“It must kinda blow to be John Boehner,” wrote New York‘s John Heilemann.) All we can say is, it looks like Boehner can finally hold his head erect after managing to squeeze $38 billion in spending cuts from the White House, proving once and for all that he’s more than just the Tea Party’s sleepy dormouse. To deflect attention from the fact that lower government spending won’t exactly help job growth (not to mention his reelection chances), President Obama chose to shine a spotlight on the real winners: an eighth-grade class from Longmont, Colo., who would not have to cancel their trip to the Capitol. No word yet on whether the new budget contains a line item for celebratory s’mores.

Also shut down last week was the short but memorable tenure of Cathie Black as schools chancellor. Ms. Black resigned after only 97 days in office, on the heels of a new report citing her dismal 17 percent approval rating (for context, 77 percent of people polled in Rockefeller Center by Us Weekly approved of Khloe Kardashian’s choice to wear a body-hugging bandage dress designed to resemble piano keys). Mayor Bloomberg accepted “full responsibility” for the fact that Ms. Black, a magazine executive who had no experience in education and sent her own children to private school, had to be replaced with Dennis Walcott, a former kindergarten teacher and the current deputy mayor for education who is himself a product of the New York City public-school system. But, as Ms. Black herself might say, it was a Sophie’s Choice.

Perhaps even more shocking than the Blackout that clogged news wires on Thursday was the announcement that Matt Lauer, everyone’s favorite tall, glib drink of water, might be leaving The Today Show after 14 years to (maybe?) host a syndicated talk show with CBS defector and funky chicken aficionado Katie Couric. Meredith Vieira is rumored to be leaving, too, but now, unless she ups her game with a Glenn Beck cross-country travelogue, no one will care. And Regis Philbin, who, at 79, is older than both drive-in movie theaters and the electron microscope, supposedly has his eye on a solo show once he bids adieu to Live With Regis and Kelly later this year. (We hear he’s in talks with Harpo, and none too soon–who better to revive Oprah’s otiose OWN network than Reeg, the man who, much to Ryan Seacrest’s dismay, holds the Guinness World Record for the most time spent in front of a television camera?) Of course, this all begs the question: Whom do we watch now while discreetly reducing the elliptical incline every morning? Pat Kiernan is sexy in a Greg Kinnear hand-puppet kind of a way, but he’s not for everyone.

But even as the very cornerstones of our society threaten to crumble to a dust finer than the high-grade narcotics dusting the banquettes of the Boom Boom Room, even as we get mad as hell and entertain notions of refusing to take it anymore (RIP, Sidney Lumet), maybe by signing a petition, some things simply refuse to shut down. Thanks to his Wikileaking Ukrainian nurse, we learned that Muammar Qaddafi still listens to cassette tapes–quaint! The Boston Red Sox broke their 0-6 losing streak, beating the Yankees two games out of three in a series at Fenway this weekend. The Real Housewives of New York clambered out of their gilded short bus for yet another season of Bravo’s pinot grigio-fueled ego trip. And good ol’ Mitt Romney officially tossed his hat into the 2012 primary ring, forming a presidential exploratory committee entreating his followers to “Believe in America.” Because if the fibers of our democracy can’t remain strong enough for a busload of middle-schoolers to snicker at the phallic splendor of the Washington monument, what are we left with, really?