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Hi-Phi Nation is philosophy in story-form, integrating narrative journalism with big ideas. We look at stories from everyday life, law, science, popular culture, and strange corners of human experiences that raise thought-provoking questions about things like justice, knowledge, the self, morality, and existence. We then seek answers with the help of academics and philosophers. The show is produced and hosted by Barry Lam of Vassar College.
 
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A woman spends 40 years in and out of prison for shoplifting and finally gets a break from a judge in her late 50s. She uses the opportunity to abolish a jail and transform her city. This week we look at prison abolition and the arguments for eliminating all punishment from the system. From the denial that we have free will, to the view that perpet…
 
Barry is joined by USC philosopher Mark Schroeder and Northeastern philosopher Matthew Noah Smith to talk about John Rawl's distinction between procedural and substantive justice, and whether it helps to evaluate the use of unconvicted conduct in sentencing.저자 Slate Podcasts
 
Two men committed a double murder in rural Maine in 1990. Only one pulled the trigger. The state prosecutor decided to try them separately, but that was a mistake, and both were acquitted. Then the Feds came in, and sentenced one man to life in prison for a crime he was already acquitted of doing. How is this possible in America? The answer is a lo…
 
In this bonus episode, Barry talks with Judge Frederic Block about mandatory minimums and prosecutorial immunity, two practices that Judge Block opposes. Zachary Hoskins explains the differences between cardinal and ordinal proportionality, or the difference in trying to figure out what punishments fits this particular crime, versus what ranking cr…
 
A teen-aged girl gets caught with a suitcase stuffed with powdered cocaine, and she comes before a federal judge. That judge learns that a felony conviction carries punishments for life for her. He embarks on a mission to get all other judges to shorten prison sentences in light of this. Meanwhile, a researcher learns of a pervasive but secretive p…
 
Erick Williams tells the story of how one bad night in the chow hall got him into solitary confinement at Walpole. The path out of solitary, and eventually out of prison, took another decade. On this episode, we look at the unique power of the Department of Corrections to do with prisoners what they will at their discretion. Philosopher Lisa Guenth…
 
Attorney and social worker Lisa Newman-Polk talks about her client, Eugene Ivey, whose story figures in the main episode, Redemption in the DDU. Eugene spent 13 years in solitary as part of a 15-to-life sentence, of which he has been paroled after 25 years. However, Eugene is still locked up, and Covid-19 has made it worse. For Covid-19 related upd…
 
On this episode, we look at feminist and progressive prosecution; how does a prosecutor balance the aims of prosecuting more gender-based crimes while also being sensitive to the problems of mass incarceration? We look at the story of one Maine prosecutor who is winning victories in sexual assault cases that were once deemed unwinnable, and whether…
 
Barry and Sarah Lustbader talks about the incentive public defenders have to make informant deals, and whether we can justify liking police discretionary actions to break laws in the interest of busting crooked cops and politicians, but despise their use for low-level drug offenses. They conclude with talk about what makes for valid and free contra…
 
This week we go inside investigative operations in NYPD internal affairs and in the war and drugs to look at the police use of discretion to selectively break laws in order to pursue the bad guys. One former FBI special agent turned political philosopher argues that local and federal law enforcement are the biggest threat to the rule of law in thei…
 
On this bonus Slate Plus episode, Barry and Sarah Lustbader talk about the issues raised in the police discretion episode. They talk about how to implement public reasons test for officers using their discretion in low-level offenses, and what it would mean to "disbar" an officer for unethical behavior. Sarah questions why the system considers it a…
 
Is a mobile home a home or a car? Is a car parked inside a home part of the home? The answer to these stoner philosophical questions determine the scope of police power. Over the last 100 years, the Supreme Court has presided over the expansion of police discretionary powers to stop, search, and arrest people through litigation over automobiles. Th…
 
One place where law and morality are supposed to agree is that there should be no crime without a criminal mind, what is called “mens rea” in criminal law. But there have been a proliferation of crimes that do not require knowledge or intent, contributing to over-prosecution and overincarceration. Conservative and libertarian lawmakers have claimed…
 
In this Slate Plus segment, Barry is joined by Sarah Lustbader to discuss the issues raised in Episode 1: Criminal Minds. Sarah expresses skepticism about the significance of mens rea in ordinary prosecution of street crimes, Barry uses the opportunity to discuss the issue of moral luck as an explanation of why egregiousness of outcome seems to be …
 
From writing criminal laws to rights denied to the formerly incarcerated, every single stage of the criminal justice system runs on unquestioned assumptions about right and wrong, responsibility and excuse, freedom, protection, and discretionary decision-making. This season of Hi-Phi Nation will question and examine those assumptions. The season be…
 
Drake coined “YOLO,” short for “you only live once” in 2011, and then later apologized for all the douchiness it subsequently engendered. But the spirit is ancient, and cross-cultural, speaking deeply to the kind of decision-making that is supposed to make for the good life. It seems to be saying that risk and spontaneity should be valued above pru…
 
Pyotr Tchaikovsky composed and conducted his final symphony in 1893. He died 9 days later, after having knowingly drunk an unboiled glass of water during a cholera epidemic. Deep into the symphony, Symphony no. 6, there is a paradoxical passage that, when played, no one will be able to hear. This is because Tchaikovsky scored it to contain a musica…
 
In this bonus episode exclusively for Slate Plus members, Barry Lam and Stephen Metcalf discuss whether they can separate the morality of an activist's tactics from the morality of their causes, and Barry talks about why he finds vegans insufferable even though they might be right. Stephen worries about whether the diversity of human moral judgment…
 
In Australia, vegan and animal liberation activism has recently become intense and disruptive, invading farms, restaurants, and city centers. They’re doing everything from rescuing animals to blocking traffic, and occupying steakhouses. Some argue that these new activists are needlessly victimizing innocent farmers, business owners, and consumers. …
 
In the forty years since the events at Olivia Records, gender categorization seems to pop up sporadically in the mainstream press, leading to what sociologists Laurel Westbrook and Kristen Schilt call "gender panics," and then they disappear only to emerge again at some other time. An analysis of gender panics show that people fear some gender nonc…
 
It is currently very difficult to get your gender legally changed in the U.K, That might change. In recent months, philosophers have been drafted into making complicated and contentious arguments about what it is to be a man, woman, or any other gender in the service of advancing or blocking the movement for trans-rights and recognition. In particu…
 
Preschool kids get their first taste of democratic participation when they vote on their class name, and democratic private schools try to display the value of democracy by making kids vote on everything, even the school budget. Does it work or do kids make terrible decisions? One diagnosis of our modern-day political problems is that too many stup…
 
A few days after the New Zealand Mosque massacre, Dr. Thaya Ashman heard about a woman who was too afraid to come out in public in her hijab for fear of being targeted. So Dr. Ashman had an idea to invite every person in New Zealand to wear a headscarf in public. The result was quite different from what happened in America three years ago, when a w…
 
This year will mark the 18th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, the forever war characterized by regime change, a surge, drawdowns, and then re-engagement across three Presidential administrations. We take a retrospective of the entire war, from the forgotten events of the lead-up to its total financial and moral costs to date. Journalist Dougl…
 
Co-host of Slate Culture Gabfest and Slate's critic-at-large Stephen Metcalf sits down with Hi-Phi Nation host and producer Barry Lam to talk about the story and philosophical issues from "No Offense", episode 3 of Season 3 of Hi-Phi Nation on the moral foundations of free speech protections in the U.S. and Australia. Stephen defends the Australian…
 
What if you could sue someone for calling you a racial slur? In the 90s, one country that always looked very similar to America decided to allow it, rolling back the rights to free speech in the interest of protecting victims of hate speech. Is the result a slippery slope to government tyranny, or a more harmonious society? The moral right to hate …
 
How many innocent people should we be allowed to arrest and jail in order to prevent a single dangerous person from being free? The Supreme Court has refused to answer this question, but algorithms have, and many courts across the country are going with the algorithm. At different stages of the criminal justice system, computerized risk-assessment …
 
Predictive policing technology is spreading across the country, and Los Angeles is the epicenter. A small group of LA activists are in a lopsided campaign against billions of dollars in city, federal, and Silicon Valley money using algorithms to predict where and when the next crime is going to occur, and even who the perpetrators are going to be. …
 
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