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The Week in Ideas (1/28)

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  January 27, 2013 04:14 PM

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Is morality a conservative issue? Not in Canada.: James Farney, professor of political science at the University of Regina, on how the current political alignment in America is not inevitable or unchangeable. To see why, he explains, we should look at Canada. Conservative politics in Canada and the U.S. resemble each other but for one fact: north of the border, social issues don’t play a big role in the public debate. Farney traces this difference to the 1960s. In America, social conservatives fused with Goldwater-libertarians to create the modern Republican Party. In Canada during those same years, Toryism infused the Progressive Conservative Party with the idea that “public virtue was not a matter for politics.”

Shakespeare, man of law: Christopher Shea interviews attorney Daniel Kelly on the legal debates prompted by Shakespeare’s plays. Kelly oversees the annual event “Shakespeare and the Law” which was held most recently on January 17 at Suffolk University. In his conversation with Shea, Kelly talks about how Shakespeare’s plays provoke consideration of diverse legal issues including executive overreach, tensions between the letter and the spirit of the law, and arbitrary prosecutions.

In modern warfare, what does victory mean?: Gal Beckerman on how America needs a new way to define victory in war. Our current working definition is based on World War II, where we achieved a total strategic and ideological victory. But that type of outcome is rare in war, and aiming for it has led us into quagmires: Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. Beckerman talks with scholars who are proposing new definitions of victory in war. These definitions are narrower, more concrete, and more modest than we might hope for, but at least, Beckerman argues, they provide the country with achievable goals for getting into and out of conflicts.

Catfish: How Manti Te’o’s imaginary romance got its name: Ben Zimmer on how “catfish” became slang for one who dupes another in a fictitious romance. Zimmer details the term’s origins in the 2010 documentary “Catfish,” which later spun-off into an MTV reality show by the same name. He also looks at examples of “catfishing” in literature and history, including an elaborate romantic hoax from 1910 perpetrated on a Connecticut bachelor named George Osborne.

Plus: Kevin Lewis on warning signs in teen relationships, how viewing porn makes men more likely to support same sex marriage, and how, controlling for other factors, female litigators win a disproportionate share of judges’ votes.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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