We Just Got A Little More Civilized… Just A Little

June 25, 2012 will forever mark the day in U.S. history when we took another very small step towards becoming civilized. On this day the Supreme Court ruled, in a close 5-4 decision, that mandatory life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, for juveniles, is unconstitutional violating the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. 28 out of 50 U.S. states mandate life terms for murders, which includes those under the age of 18. There are currently 2,500 inmates who are serving life sentences for crimes they committed when they were juveniles. 2,000 of those sentences were imposed because they were mandated by legislature, according to the Associated Press. Those Supreme Court Judges in favor of the ruling included Justices Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Kagan. After the ruling Justice Kagan stated.

“Mandatory life without parole for a juvenile precludes consideration of his chronological age and its hallmark features — among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences,” Justice Kagan added. “It prevents taking into account the family and home environment that surrounds him — and from which he cannot usually extricate himself — no matter how brutal or dysfunctional.”

(N.Y. Times)

This ruling by the Supreme Court is significant to the effect that it requires, for the first time in U.S. judicial history, the court to apply some factors of the scientific method before sentencing a juvenile. Meaning the court can no longer solely look at the actions of the child and blindly say, you did a bad thing, so that makes you a bad person, lock him up and throw away the key. From here on out the court must consider the age of the child, his environment and life circumstances which brought him to the point where he is today. In essence the court would be getting down to the root causes of the child’s actions. Though this may seem like a big step forward it is actually a very small step do to the fact that the child offenders may be getting a lighter sentence but still won’t be getting the proper rehabilitation necessary to change the child’s physiological state and make him a functioning member of society. In the end the child will still go to jail. Further more, why not implement this ruling in all criminal cases including adults. Is it not better to figure out the root causes of all criminal behavior other than blindly throwing them in jail. But once again it is all in vain if we do implement this ruling yet continue to simply put children and adults in jail, rather than rehabilitating them to become fully functional members of society. As necessary as this ruling was, we’ve clearly still have a long ways to go to becoming a civilized people.

The End of Money

It has been said that money is the root of all evil and for the most part that saying is correct. The number one cause of crime, divorces, arguments, fights and just about every problem that you have in your life boils down to one common denominator and that is money or lack thereof. This is not to say that money has always been a great evil that humanity has had to deal with. But when one takes the time to review the evolution of money and the role that it has played in society it then becomes clear that use of money has become obsolete and hence a problem in modern society.

One of the earliest forms of physical currency was commodity money. Commodity money were objects that had direct value in themselves (tobacco, corn, wheat, leather, alcohol, gold, silver etc..) and could be used as a medium of exchange for other goods. One of the key problems with commodity money was that, like bartering, it required a “coincidence of wants”. Meaning, if you walked into a shop with tobacco as your commodity money but the shop owner had no need nor use for the tobacco then you could not purchase anything in the shop. As time progressed more and more people began using gold and silver coins as a medium of exchange due to the inconvenience of storage, transportation and decaying of commodity money they possessed. This is a very important mark in the transition to take note of. The shift from commodity money to coinage made goods more liquid because the actual coinage had a single recognized unit of exchange.

Shortly there after, along side with coinage, came representative money (paper money, gold standard). Representative money (paper money, gold standard) was backed by an underlying commodity, in the case of the United States the underlying commodity was gold. During the time of the “gold standard” in the United States you could exchange you dollar for gold and that is what gave the dollar actual worth. This reduced the need of having to actually walk around with physical gold, it was simply a lot lighter on the pockets. The practice of purchasing goods with gold and other precious metals continued until 1933 when it was banned out of fear of hoarding gold during a period of economic depression in which maximal circulation of money was desired by influential economist. In 1971 the gold standard was officially banned by President Nixon due to foreign arbitrage during the Vietnam War (Nixon Shock).

(Example of Arbitrage)

Suppose that the exchange rates (after taking out the fees for making the exchange) in London are £5 = $10 = ¥1000 and the exchange rates in Tokyo are ¥1000 = $12 = £6. Converting ¥1000 to $12 in Tokyo and converting that $12 into ¥1200 in London, for a profit of ¥200, would be arbitrage. In reality, this “triangle arbitrage” is so simple that it almost never occurs. But more complicated foreign exchange arbitrages, such as the spot-forward arbitrage are much more common.

The elimination of representative money brings us to where we are today, Fiat Money. Fiat money is a form of currency that is without any intrinsic value. Essentially the dollar in you pocket today is merely a worthless piece of paper whose value is established by government decree. Fiat money is the current prevailing form of currency in the world today. One of the main problems with fiat money is that because it is not backed by a fixed amount of gold or any other commodity of worth it can be printed at will. Unregulated this eventually causes hyperinflation.

Upon the examination of the evolution of money there is one thing which sharply stands out. Which is, up until this point in humane history money has always been, essentially, a tool of resource management guiding the distribution of goods accordingly. During the time in humane history when scarcity of goods were real it was necessary for money to exist in order to prevent rapid shortages of goods that could not be quickly reproduced, due to the lack of scientific and technological understanding. Today, scarcity in the world is not actual but deliberate simply to maintain our old outdated social structure. Currently,we have the technological understanding to produce the necessities of life for everyone on the planet without the need for money,  it is merely a matter of applying it. Money is no longer necessary in human society.

At this point in time money dose nothing but cause problems. The next time you see a homeless man laying on the side of the road, stop and think about why he is homeless. Is because there is it because there isn’t enough housing. Nope, as you drive around your city there are plenty of vacant apartments and condominiums that you see everyday. Then ask yourself why is the homeless man hungry. Is it because there is a shortage of food. Nope, every time you walk into a grocery store the shelves, not including the stockroom, are filled with more food than they can sell that they eventually end up throwing out. Then why, why is he in such a horrible state, oh yeah, its because “he can’t afford” any of those things, that’s why. Well why doesn’t he stop being lazy and get a stupid job. Yeah, a stupid job, you know what I’m talking about. Kind of like the one you (the reader) wake up and go to everyday, standing behind a cash register or sitting behind a cubical in an office, that kind of stupid job. The stupid job that you hate going to everyday and then will call a homeless person lazy for not having when in actuality your just jealous because you wish you didn’t have to work like the homeless man. As a matter of fact why don’t you just quit your job and pursue that thing that your actually passionate about, oh yeah, “you can’t afford to”.

Ending World Hunger….. Easy

In 1974 the first World Food Conference was held by the United Nations to set up a plan of action to end world hunger. In that conferences, then U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger stated that within 10 years no child would go to bed hungry. To say Mr. Kissinger was off on his prediction would be an understatement. In 1974 it was estimated, by the F.A.O., that 434 million people were going hungry in the world. Since then that number has risen to a staggering 925 million. In between this time there have been numerous conferences, committees, summits, rallies and protest on putting an end to world hunger but to date everyone of them has been in vain. It would seem that ending this crisis is an impossible feat and with the world population expected to rise from 6 to 8 billion by 2050 the crisis of hunger can only grow worse, but it doesn’t have to. With the methods of soilless cultivation such as Hydroponics and Aeroponics feeding the hungry should be a piece of cake (no pun intended).

Hydroponics is a method of farming in which soil is not used as a medium for crops to grow. Rather, crops are grown with its roots in a mineral nutrient solution or an inert medium such as coir, sand, wood fiber, etc. Contrary to belief, soil is not a necessity for plant growth. So long as the necessary mineral nutrients are introduced into the plants water supply soil is not required.

Since the mid 90’s NASA has been researching hydroponic farming and other methods of soilless cultivation as a means by which to grow food in space. NASA has primarily focused on a method of soilless cultivation known as Aeroponics. Aeroponics is a method of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium. The plants are suspeneded in a closed or semi-closed environment in which the dangling roosts and lower stem are sprayed with nutrient-rich water solution by means of misters or foggers.

What makes Aeroponics more attractive over hydroponics is that Aeroponics does not require as much water and energy to grow its plants. Plants which are cultivated in this fashion grow faster and are more mineral and nutrient rich. Also with these plants growing in a controlled environment the possibility for pests and disease forming are drastically reduced. In the case of soil or any other aggregate media, disease can spread quickly throughout the media infecting all plants within it. Whereas in the case of plants grown by the use of aeroponics, the infected plant can simply be removed and discarded without infecting the other surrounding plants. NASA has developed may types of aeroponics systems for potential use in there future mission to Mars.

Whats unfortunate is that theses methods of farming are not new. Aeroponicas dates back to the mid 80’s and hydroponics dates as far back as to the mid 1800’s. Fortunately there are many scientist, out side of those in NASA, such as Dickson Despommier, who are vigorously pushing for a complete transition of growing plants and crops through the uses of soilless cultivation by means of vertical farms (look inside a vertical farm).

With the use of Hydro and Aeroponics we can grow an abundance of food literally any where from Antarctica to the Sahara Desert and even Mars. To date there is no logical excuse for anyone on earth to go hungry and for it to continue is not only criminal but socially irresponsible. It is time to end hunger now!!

To further explain this here is a video by microbiologist, ecologist and Professor of Public Health in Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University Dickson Despommier. Watch It! 🙂