So! The first government shutdown in 17 years? Sounds like fun, right? The New York Times has a helpful guide to exactly what the fuck's going on. The short version is that everyone is terrible and we're all doomed:

With Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate, the Republicans who control the House, tugged rightward by a vocal core of Tea Party conservatives, have begun using budget deadlines and the need for periodic debt limit increases as leverage to press for concessions. A favorite target, and the one at the center of the current dispute, is the health care overhaul passed by Congress and signed into law by Mr. Obama in 2010 over vigorous Tea Party opposition.

Given this poisoned political relationship, Congress has been unable to pass a budget in the normal way. To keep the government operating in March, it passed a temporary spending measure. But that expires at midnight Monday, and House Republicans say they will not vote for new spending unless the president’s health care law is delayed and its funding cut. (Via.)

That's not all: Republicans are also demanding "a rollback of environmental regulations," "approval of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline," and "lunch at Quiznos for everybody, including cookies" because fuck it, if you're holding your own government hostage, why not ask for whatever strikes your fancy. Secretary of Defense/former Republican senator Chuck Hagel probably put it best when he pointed out that “This is an astoundingly irresponsible way to govern,” but that doesn't seem to be upsetting Republicans too much. (Republicans don't listen to John McCain anymore either, especially when he matter-of-factly tries to remind them that [SPOILER ALERT] Obamacare already passed. "We fought as hard as we could in a fair and honest manner and we lost," McCain said a few days ago, exhibiting a pragmatism—a grumpy sort of pragmatism, true, but a pragmatism!—that simply will not stand in today's House.)

On the depressing downside, Hagel's right, but on the hilarious upside, this bullshit brinksmanship also leads to some fantastic theater—like when CNN host Ashleigh Banfield asked two Republican representatives, California's Dana Rohrabacher and Tennessee's Marsha Blackburn, if they'd be cool with their $174,000/year paychecks being some of the ones that wouldn't be issued if the shutdown happens. They... they do not like that idea. (Thanks for the clip, ThinkProgress.)