Currency of the Apocalypse–Watcha Got?

By Piper Bayard

The apocalypse has come. How are you going to pay for it? Your money is now worth nothing. Even your gold is indigestible. So what’s going to be the new medium of exchange?

image by Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0, wikimedia commons

image by Larry D. Moore
CC BY-SA 3.0, wikimedia commons

Let’s start with the obvious. Spam and Twinkies. Food is going to be in short supply, and, unless there is some kind of polar apocalypse, or you’ve got a way to operate your electric vacuum sealer, modern food storage will be a thing of the past. Spam and Twinkies never go bad. Hence, they will not only prove a valuable commodity at mealtime, but they will help you keep up your body weight and give you something to trade for shoes and ammunition for your crossbow. Just watch out for cannibals and zombies – eat enough Spam and Twinkies, and you, too, will be salty, sweet, and well-marbled for predators.

Another handy trade good of the apocalypse will be Tic Tacs. Just think how bad everyone’s breath is going to be once we have no running water or toothpaste. And trust me, people will still want to kiss each other, and this is a good thing. Without that, humanity would die out quickly. So sell all of your gold and invest now in Tic Tacs for the good of the species. They will be hot on the barter market.

The third thing you don’t want to face an apocalypse without is a stash of toilet paper. Just ask Venezuela, which is currently suffering from a toilet paper shortage. People will give a lot for a roll of the white stuff when they’ve eaten too much Spam and Twinkies. Of course, that will be one of the two uses left for your paper money—the other being to light small fires—but you can get more mileage from investing that paper now in paper.

Toilet Paper Money canstock

Unfortunately for Archer in FIRELANDS, Spam and Twinkies are not an option. She and her people eat hemp gruel, the few vegetables the Josephites allow them to grow in their gardens, and whatever meat Archer brings them from the forest. For money, they are only allowed to barter unless they are trading at the Josephite-operated Big Box.

You, however, will have the time-honored cigarettes and chocolate to barter with in the Apocalypse if you are the lucky reader to win the FIRELANDS Apocalypse Survival Kit. You’ll also have a fantastic Eddie Bauer Go Bag, a can of Tactical Bacon–better than Spam or Twinkies–a signed author copy of FIRELANDS, and a stuffed Grumpy Cat to keep you company and cheer you up while surviving on the smoking heap that used to be our planet.

The easiest way to enter is to sign up for the Bayard & Holmes mailing list at Bayard & Holmes Newsletter. No hassles and no purchase necessary. Just infrequent newsletters and book release notices. You can also enter by leaving a quote or a picture of yourself with FIRELANDS here, on FB, or on Twitter, and by leaving reviews for FIRELANDS at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iPad, or Goodreads. Each entry is valid so you can enter multiple times.

Bloggers can enter by blogging about anything to do with the Apocalypse and linking to the original post, FIRELANDS Apocalypse Reader/Blogger Challenge. One great example is Julie Glover’s blog, Words for the End of the World. The blogger prize is a feature on Social In Worldwide, Inc., the web site that shut down the WordPress server this week with all the hits it gets.

For more details, see FIRELANDS Reader/Blogger Challenge.

What would you use as currency in a post-apocalyptic world?

FIRELANDS Cover

Eighty years in the future, America has devolved into a totalitarian theocracy. The ruling Josephites clone the only seeds that grow in the post-apocalyptic climate, allowing their Prophet to control who eats, who starves, and who dies in the ritual fires that atone society.

Subsisting on the fringes, Archer risks violation and death each day as she scours the forest for game to feed her people. When a Josephite refugee seeks sanctuary in her home, Archer is driven to chance a desperate gamble. A gamble that will bring down the Prophet and deliver seeds and freedom, or end in a fiery death for herself and for everyone she loves.

Seeds are life . . . Seeds are power . . . Seeds are the only hope of a despairing people. What will Archer do for the seeds of freedom, and what will she justify in their name?

FIRELANDS

Available from Amazon in Paperback and on Kindle

Also in e-book at Barnes & Noble and Kobo,

and at iTunes for iPad and mobile devices.

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Chinese Theft and Hacking in the News — Where Lies the Blame?

By Jay Holmes

Headlines this week are reporting the not-very-new “news” that China is—drumroll and sound track of gasping readers please—stealing US technology and hacking into classified US government computer systems. A secondary aspect of the story focuses on daily denials by China. So is China really stealing US technology? If it is, then what does it mean to us US taxpayers and consumers? What does it mean to our allies and their well-bled taxpayers and highly unemployed consumers?

Stealing Data Canstock

Let’s first consider this “news” from the Chinese side of the issue.  Chinese denials are generally orated in monotone fashion by one highly placed spin doctor or another with even less acting skill than the average D.C. government mouthpiece. The denials, themselves, are always about as convincing as those issued by well-paid celebrity lawyers defending their highly privileged clients.

In China, as in Hollywood or D.C., reasonable observers start with the assumption that the spokesman is a well-practiced, lying crook. They then try to extract some grain of truth from the transparently nonsensical denials being issued. In the case of Chinese government spin doctors, the only truth available from them is the simple truth that they have no need to or intention of ever telling the truth about anything to anyone. They don’t have to. Or at least have never had to until recently.

Different cultures view truth-telling in different ways, and in the Chinese culture, telling the truth to the world at large is considered a form of severe naiveté bordering on mental illness. Add to that the fact that China has never had a government that answered to the Chinese people. As a result, in Chinese government culture, the rare and refined art of telling the truth is about as useful as space heaters in a Congolese home. In a Western context, one might imagine how weasel-like White House and Whitehall spokesmen would become if their masters and their masters’ masters never had to face the expense of another election campaign.

And yet there is one group of listeners that the Chinese find more complex and difficult to deal with—the world’s non-Chinese consumers. The Chinese have figured out that while the thoughts and opinions of their own well-policed prisoner-citizens can be easily dismissed or silenced, the image of the Chinese communist police state now matters to the Chinese oligarchy for financial reasons.

China makes trillions of dollars from Western consumers and Western corporations. As the image of the Chinese government rises and falls from the depths of the public opinion sewer, profits rise and fall. Western consumers buy cheap Chinese junk with the same enthusiasm that heroin addicts demonstrate in their methadone lines. But even with the severity of the West’s addiction to low-priced Chinese garbage, sales can and do rise and fall. A small movement in sales levels represents billions of dollars in lost revenue to the economic warlords that now run China.

What if a Chinese nouveau riche politician is considering buying another Caribbean island or US skyscraper, and his profits drop? What if he and his pals desperately need to rent some Western politicians to do their bidding, and the cash flow takes a dive? To those few people in China who are used to getting anything they want when they want it, that would be annoying. That threat of annoyance inspires Chinese devotion to keeping those revenue bumps from happening.

Predictably, the Chinese have recently switched from routinely denying that anyone in China ever would or could hack a computer, steal technology, or violate a patent, to doing the old “shoulder shrug” response. They are now saying “all governments hack other countries’ computers.” And, of course, they’re not quite right. Not all governments hack other countries’ computers. Only governments with the required resources do that. And furthermore, not all governments ignore patent violations. China does.

Now that we’ve had a laugh considering China’s denials, let’s consider the “hacking” from a Western perspective. China’s routine theft of US technology makes Western companies less competitive in the giant sludge pit that we call “the world market.” That means higher unemployment leading to higher tax rates to help the unemployed, which in turn makes the West still less competitive in the world marketplace.

As well as commercial technology, the Chinese hacking efforts also focus on US military secrets, including advanced weapons design. This means that China gets to develop their advanced weapons, such as their stealth fighter or their drones, without the expense of years of scientific research or the subsequent thousands of engineering hours that lead to lots of engineers having strokes and their employers eventually delivering a useful product. It also means that our weapons systems are less useful as deterrents to Chinese imperial aims.

In Maoist times, the Chinese military only needed to be well-enough equipped and trained to keep the Chinese people obedient to Mao. The most important characteristic of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army was obedience to Mao. The emphasis was not on developing a highly skilled, powerful military, but rather a highly obedient one.

In 1978, Viet Nam invaded Laos and Cambodia to overthrow their Chinese-backed governments. In 1979, after yearlong logistical preparations, China confidently invaded Viet Nam. After China’s logistical support for its invading army collapsed, they were forced to withdraw from Viet Nam.

The Chinese military leadership has wanted to do two things since that 1979 disaster. One, it has wanted to continue using its control of the Chinese military and Chinese military industries to acquire personal wealth. In this it has excelled fantastically. In the post-Maoist era they need not hide their profits. They don’t. Their second concern has been to become a more powerful military capable of conquering someone other than themselves. They needed science and technology to do that.

The Chinese suffered decades of “cultural revolution” that included purges of “intellectuals” that would have made even Stalin jealous. The problem with killing all those nasty, opinionated university types, though, is that nobody was left to develop technology. As a result, stealing science and technology became a huge imperative for the Chinese government in the post-Mao age.

Now that China has avoided the routine random slaughter of university professors for a few decades, they have a powerful and effective scientific/engineering community, but that community remains hamstrung by government agencies that are so corrupt that they make Western governments appear to be honest and efficient by comparison. So stealing technology and military secrets remains a priority for China. In fact, it remains a priority for all governments that have the ability to effectively spy.

It’s easy to get angry at the Chinese for being the thieving crooks that they are, but let’s be realistic a moment. The Chinese would give us the standard Chinese answer to that indignation. They would—and frequently do—laugh at us for being so stupid as to allow ourselves to get robbed. In this, they are right.

Most of the Western corporations that whine about the Chinese hacking their computer systems and stealing their technologies have factories in China manned by Chinese employees. While unemployment remains depressingly high in Western nations, these same Western corporations are building yet more factories in China.  Wondering where all your GM bailout cash went? It went to building factories and research centers in communist China. No need for the Chinese to steal GM’s technology. GM gives it to them on a silver platter. And YOU paid for that silver platter!

Whose job is it to secure US military secrets? Is that the job of the Chinese? I don’t think so. Hacking into US intelligence and military networks should not be a “crime.” It should be an impossibility. The fact that it can be done at all is a travesty. Basic compartmentalization to keep top-secret data off of internet systems would prevent that.

So while we listen to the not-so-new news reports about Chinese theft of US technologies and military secrets, we should perhaps not bother questioning China’s spin-doctors. Instead, we should be asking our own government and corporations why it’s happening in the first place.

Thanks for Coming After Me, IRS

By Piper Bayard

Jerry Lewis on Tax Day image public domain

Jerry Lewis on Tax Day
image public domain

The IRS came after me, and I’m smiling. Yes, smiling.

No, I don’t enjoy paying taxes. In fact, I’m appalled by the way the government misappropriates or flat out pilfers half of what it takes, and then our “leaders” refuse to balance the budget. . . . No, I’m smiling because the IRS came after me. Allow me to explain.

A while back, I went to my mailbox and found hate mail from the IRS. I felt ill when I saw the envelope. Not because I’ve been dishonest on my taxes, but because when it comes to the IRS, no news is ever good news.

Sure enough, I opened it, and it was a demand for thousands of dollars plus penalties and interest from two years ago. WHAT??!! I immediately became 100% focused, something that usually only happens when I’m writing fiction, flirting with my husband, or writhing in the throes of childbirth.

Reading through the letter, I didn’t have the first flaming clue what they were talking about. Some transaction I didn’t remember involving an exchange I didn’t recognize and money I neither spent nor saved because it never existed.

I pulled out my records, and after much gnashing of teeth, rapid-fire consumption of gluten-free pretzels, and screaming of expletive deleteds that would make Spanish sailors blush, I found what they wanted, and why. And . . . here’s the smile part . . . I found they only had it half right. There was definitely an error, but it was an error in MY favor.

Delighted, I immediately sat down and answered the IRS with a thank you note for pointing out my unclaimed tax return, and I attached the documentation to prove it. I seriously considered charging them penalties and interest for the free loan they enjoyed from me for the past couple of years, but if I could count, I never would have gone to law school. I deemed that little bit of gloating to be too time-consuming, so I passed.

The result? I haven’t seen any money yet, but this past Saturday, I did receive a single sentence note of apology added to the backside of a form letter. . . . Yes. I’ll bet they are sorry.

So what’s the moral of this story on this Tax Week? Be sure to take all of your deductions, and if the Boogie Tax Man comes knocking at your bank account, don’t freak. He just might be doing you a favor.

Do you have any Tax Day stories to share? I’d love to hear them. 🙂

All the best to all of you for a week of substantial returns.