The group blog of The New Republic

September 30, 2013

Elizabeth Wurtzel's subjects have always been sadness and age. Her first, famous book (Prozac Nation) was about her youthful depression. Lately, her magazine pieces have fit the theme of, loosely, middle-age tristesse. For New York, she took a freewheeling look at what it means to be a 45-year-old living like a 25-year-old.

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Everything happened as it should on last night’s “Breaking Bad” finale. The Nazis went down in a blaze of machine gun fire, Jesse escaped, Gretchen and Elliot were jolted out of their smugness, Walt copped to his own terrible selfishness in a final conversation with his wife. For a show that makes a point of not giving viewers exactly what they want or expect, the finale was uncharacteristically satisfying. There was no gut clench as the credits rolled, no wave of disgust for humanity—just a sense of inevitability and relief.

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There’s a scene toward the end of the first episode of Showtime’s new drama “Masters of Sex” in which two test subjects embrace on a bed in a hospital laboratory. Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson, the real-life sex researchers from St. Louis’s Washington University who performed trailblazing studies on human subjects in the years before the sexual revolution, watch silently through a pane of glass. A scroll of paper charting the subjects’ heart rates unspools onto the floor nearby.

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September 29, 2013

Countdown to Shutdown

Think 1996 was bad for the GOP? This time will be much, much worse

The year 1996, the last time the GOP took its toys and went home rather than fund the government, hasn’t loomed so large in Washington since it actually was 1996. Democrats, the media, and a not insignificant number of Republicans are convinced the looming shutdown will be just as disastrous for today’s GOP as the previous one was for Newt Gingrich’s.

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Robert Baer is a former CIA case officer who served everywhere from Iraq to the former Soviet Union. (The 2005 film Syriana, starring George Clooney, was an adaptation of several of his books about the intelligence world.) Who better, then, to discuss Season 3 of “Homeland,” which premiered last night on Showtime? Every Monday, Baer and New Republic Senior Editor Isaac Chotiner will chat about the previous night’s episode. The conversations contain spoilers. 

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Students are headed back to school, which means the media is busy enlightening us yet again about the university admissions process.

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The call, now heard around the world, made Friday by President Barack Obama from the Oval Office to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, as he was stuck in New York City traffic on his way to the airport, has at least for the moment ended a tumultuous 34-year-old estrangement between the two countries, a estrangement only occasionally broken by discreet mid-level meetings between the two countries’ representatives, or “back-channel” encounters. 

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On Wednesday, LGBT activist Alexey Davydov was supposed to take part in a protest against the Sochi Olympics but had to go to the hospital instead. Last night, he slipped into a coma. This morning, he was gone. 

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September 27, 2013

Is there a way out of the mess in Washington? It doesn’t seem that way. The Washington fandango over a government shutdown and breach of the debt ceiling is careening from farce toward tragedy.

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It is possibly the most cynically dishonest of all the claims being made against the Affordable Care Act: that members of Congress and their staff are being “exempted” from the law. In fact, almost the opposite is the case: Capitol Hill has, for purely political reasons, been roped into the law. Back when the law was being drafted, Sen.

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