Poor Circulation: Exploring the World on less than £20 per Day

In April of 2008, I called time on a career that never was, sold all my worldly goods and set out to travel the world on a motorcycle...

.................... then all of this shit just seemed to happen


Post 413: President Donald J. Trump …. But Russia! [Posted 15th January 2017]

On the 20th January 2017, Donald Trump will be sworn-in as the 45th President of the United States of America. To those who’d followed the 2016 election race via mainstream media, who on election morning had promoted Hillary Clinton’s chances of victory to an almost staggering 98.10%, the final result had, to say the very least, come as something of a surprise. However, as the final votes had been counted and the dust begun to settle, we’d learned that the unexpected outcome had not been decided by policies, political personalities or even by the free-will of the electorate, but instead, by the manipulative actions of Vladimir Putin and his Russian Government.
The entire narrative of “Blame Russia” stems from as yet unproven claims that the Russian Government were behind the hacking of DNC and Podesta email accounts and the subsequent release of data to Wikileaks. This claim of course could turn out to be true, but even if Russia were behind the hacking and forwarding of emails, all of which turned out to be 100% genuine, I suspect that we’ll all soon be referring to the orange chancer as President Trump, not because of Russia’s meddling in the electoral process, but because of something a little closer to home; the overwhelming hubris, corruption and incompetence of the Democratic Establishment.
Looking at the voting pattern from November 8th, it’s clear that Donald Trump didn’t so much win the election, as Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee threw it away. Trump actually received fewer votes than John McCain (2008) and Mitt Romney (2012), both of whom were considered by Republicans to have been abject failures, but the saving grace for Donald Trump, and for all of the newly elected Republican Congressmen and Senators, was that seven million traditional Democratic supporters had simply not had the stomach to cast their votes for Hillary-Wall Street-Clinton,
So, in no particular order, here are a few of my thoughts on the optics, and actualities, that kept Democratic voters away from the polls on November 8th 2016 ….. But Russia!  

When the impartial Democratic National Committee (DNC) began their primary campaign by aggressively supporting their one candidate of choice, Hillary Clinton, at the expense of the other candidate, Bernie Sanders, should we accept that they were in fact, being manipulated to do so by Russia?
When the Democratic National Committee and Clinton Campaign Chairman, John Podesta, had conspired to promote Donald Trump as their preferred “Pied Piper' candidate at the General Election, should we accept that they were in fact, being manipulated to do so by Russia?
When leaked documents proving corruption and discrimination against Bernie Sanders had forced the then Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman-Shultz to resign in disgrace, should we accept that when in the face of extreme anger from Sanders’ supporters Hillary Clinton had chosen to immediately reappoint her as Honorary Chair of her own election campaign, she was in fact, being manipulated to do so by Russia?
When the Democratic Establishment had chosen to throw its weight behind the most unpopular candidate in Democratic electoral history, at a time when Clinton was polling around 2-3 points ahead of Trump, and to ignore the most popular politician in a generation when that man, Bernie Sanders, had been polling 14- 16 points ahead of Trump, should we accept that they were in fact, being manipulated to do so by Russia?
When CNN released the primary debate questions to their frequent contributor Donna Brazile, who in turn decided to forward them to the impartial DNC, who in turn passed them on to Hillary Clinton, but not it transpired to Bernie Sanders, should we accept that CNN, Donna Brazile and Hillary Clinton were in fact, all being manipulated to do so by Russia?
When Hillary Clinton publically demanded that Bernie Sanders first release his medical records, and then his tax returns, which within seven days he’d done, yet refused point-blank to release the transcripts from her own lucrative speeches to Wall Street, should we accept that she was in fact, being manipulated to do so by Russia?
When Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post published sixteen spurious smear articles in sixteen hours against Bernie Sanders, all of which turned out to be misleading or totally false narratives, should we accept that Jeff Bezos’ and the entire Editorial Board of his Washington Post were in fact, being manipulated to do so by Russia?   
When throughout the primaries, the Democratic Party had on a national basis meddled and confused the voting process with crossover ballots, provisional ballots, and in Brooklyn NY, Bernie sanders’ home town, purged voter rolls, shortened voting times and closed two-thirds of polling stations in an attempt to improve Hillary Clinton’s chances of victory in that State, should we accept that they were in fact, being manipulated to do so by Russia?     
When on the eve of the largest Democratic Party Primary, California, Associated Press had announced that Hillary Clinton had already secured sufficient pledged delegates to take the Democratic Nomination, an absolute falsehood that was none the less instantly syndicated and spread by every other media outlet, should we accept that they were all in fact, being manipulated to do so by Russia?
When during the primary contests ABC News had elected to give eighty-one times more coverage to Donald Trump than to Bernie Sanders, should we accept that they were in fact, being manipulated to do so by Russia?
When in response to National Polls showing that Donald Trump had closed the gap and was now leading Hillary Clinton, her team had reassured her that so far out from the actual election, National Polls had been meaningless, and that additional spending would be unnecessary, should we accept that they had in fact, been manipulated to do so by Russia?
When Hillary Clinton had chosen to continuously lie and contradict herself, both privately, publically and even under oath to Congress, about the use of a private email account and server, the classification of emails, the destruction, retention and release of emails already under subpoena and even the number electronic devices that she’d used during her time as Secretary of State, should we accept that she was in fact, being manipulated to do so by Russia?
When almost 600 Democratic Party Superdelegates had decided to pledge their absolute support for Hillary Clinton a month before Bernie Sanders had even announced his candidacy, and six months before any vote would be cast, should we accept that they were in fact, being manipulated to do so by Russia?
When ABC News, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, Huffington Post, Washington Post, New York Times, Politico, New York Daily News and others, had skewed Democratic Primary projections by continuously including superdelegates in their pledged delegate counts for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, should we accept that they were in fact, all being manipulated to do so by Russia?
When live at the Democratic Convention in Nevada, a reporter from Democracy Now had announced violence and chair throwing by supporters of Bernie Sanders, should we accept that the Democracy Now reporter, and every other media outlet that carried the story and failed to retract it even after the reporter had been dismissed for fabricating the entire story, were in fact, being manipulated to do so by Russia?
When as Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and the DNC had scheduled the three initial primary debates in a manner that would heavily favour the candidate with the highest name recognition in electoral history, Hillary Clinton, and deny airtime to the lesser known but quickly rising Bernie Sanders, should we accept that they were in fact, being manipulated to do so by Russia?
When the Hillary Clinton Campaign took the ultimately disastrous decision to employ former Republican mud-slinger David Brock and his mouthpiece Correct The Record, to invent anti-Sanders narratives such as Bernie Bros, Angry White Men, Sexists, Misogynists, Basement Dwellers etc., should we accept that they were in fact, being manipulated to do so by Russia?
When Hillary and her Campaign had taken the decision to abandon their plans to visit Wisconsin, a State that she ought to have won at a cantor but ultimately lost by a margin, and decided instead to hold a $100k-per-plate fund raiser with wealthy donors in Washington DC, should we accept that they were in fact, being manipulated to do so by Russia?
When US Attorney General Loretta Lynch had met privately on the tarmac in Atlanta with Bill Clinton, and then days later recused herself from making any prosecutorial decision on the FBI’s criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails, should we accept that she was in fact, being manipulated to do so by Russia?
When days after the Attorney General had recused herself from the case, FBI Director James Comey had in a televised broadcast laid out an almost flawless case for the prosecution of Hillary Clinton, but had ensured her continued candidacy by advising against her prosecution on the grounds that in his opinion, no reasonable prosecutor would prosecute the case, should we accept that he was in fact, being manipulated to do so by Russia?    
When the New York Daily News, with the assistance of Hillary Clinton’s misleading debate statements regarding her opponent’s record on Gun Control, had painted Bernie Sanders as being somehow responsible for the Sandy Hook Massacre; “Sanders’ Sandy Hook Shame”, should we accept that they were in fact, being manipulated to do so by Russia? 
                When the Clinton Foundation .................. I could go one forever here, but I'll spare you, and myself, the pain.

All of the above suggests that the Democratic National Committee had backed the wrong horses, firstly by illegally promoting the extremely flawed and highly unlikable Hillary Clinton as their own party's candidate, and secondly, by promoting the wildcard Donald Trump as their opponent at a time when the entire world had been reacting against Establishment Politics. But, if we are being asked to believe that, without any shred of actual evidence to support the claim that Russia was ultimately responsible for President Donald J. Trump, then we're ignoring the actual evidence, the evidence that shows the Democratic Party, DNC, DCCC and Hillary Clinton herself, to be entirely responsible for their own abysmal failure....... Bur Russia!  

Seeking a positive note on which to end, I can say that the only good thing about a Trump Presidency, is "No more Clintons". But having said that, given a vote, I'd probably still have held my nose and cast it for Hillary Clinton, which, probably says an awful lot about the state of establishment politics, and not just in the USA.

[Of course, throughout the Democratic Primary Campaign, there were also scandals concerning Sen. Bernie Sanders. Well actually, there was only one, and that actually occurred after Hillary Clinton had already received the nomination, and in fact, it turned out not to be a scandal at all, just another Establishment smear campaign that probably encouraged even more progressive voters to remain at home on polling day. Bernie was accused of misappropriating his famous $27 campaign contributions and splashing-out on a lavish lakeside property at North Hero, Vermont. It actually turned out, that the Sanders’ had inherited a home in Maine from their family, but as it had been too far away from their home in Burlington, they’d sold it and used the money to buy property in North Hero].

Post 412: Strange Conversations in Bangkok - Aftermath - [Posted 23rd December 2016]

Following my recent encounter at a Bangkok bar with ‘Prepper Jim’ [Post 411], what, if anything, did my subsequent research reveal? Well, what I really discovered was that science is an amazingly diverse field of study utilizing knowledge based upon an overwhelming amount of mathematics and experimental evidence. In stark contrast to science, I found the world of conspiracy theories to be equally large, but it would appear, almost totally lacking in all forms of evidence. I’m not saying that every conspiracy theory will turn out to be false, or even that all science is fully proven, but I’d need to see an awful lot of physical evidence before believing that Earth was actually flat, or, that an ancient gateway in Antarctica allowed Aliens and the Rothschild family to control the New World Order from deep inside our hollow planet. On the other hand, police forces around the world becoming more militarized, mass worldwide development of deep underground bunkers and the US Department of Homeland Security’s recent  order for five-hundred-million rounds of hollow point ammunition, well, that all seems to be true.
(Militarized Police at Standing Rock DAPL)
What I found was that science doesn’t change things, but it certainly changes your view of things. Yesterday, standing on my balcony with the day’s first coffee, the world had seemed totally still. Today it had felt much the same, but today I’d understood exactly how unstill things had been. In reality, I’d been rotating with the Earth at 1,040mph while Earth had been revolving around the Sun at 66,000.00mph. At the same time, the Sun had been spiralling through the Milky Way at 500,000mph while the Milky Way itself had been charging across the Universe at an additional 1,300,000mph. Adding those speeds together, whenever I’m standing perfectly still on my 10th floor balcony drinking coffee, I’m actually moving in several conflicting directions at a combined speed of 1,876,000mph, which by my rough calculation, is about 60mph faster than if I’d been standing perfectly still on the pavement below.
Returning to Prepper Jim, he’d claimed that if I looked at the scientific data I’d see several unprecedented things happening here on our planet. Firstly, I’d see that Earth’s perpendicular tilt had already moved beyond previously recorded norms and that the rotational variance, the wobble experienced as Earth revolves around its polar axis, was erratically wandering away from the traditional Poles. Secondly, that in the coming days I’d see a dramatic increase in the frequency of earthquakes, of all magnitudes and along all tectonic fault lines. These two provable happenings were, according to Jim, the result of external gravitational forces acting upon Earth, energizing its molten core which increases outward pressure on the crust, and at the same time, and in the same way that the gravitational force of the Moon moves the oceans, that same external gravitational force would be pulling Earth’s fragile crust towards it. The source of this external gravitational force was, he’d claimed, the mysterious and as yet unproven, Planet X.

2013 (Yellow) -2016 (Green) Planet Earth's Wandering Axis
For now, I’m going to leave the hypothetical “Planet X”, otherwise known as “Nemesis”, “Nibiru”, “Wormwood”, “Black Star”, “Planet9”, or as everybody’s favourite astrophysicist Professor Brian Cox calls it, “Planet Bullshit”, and concentrate on the factual science behind Jim’s claims. Firstly, has Earth’s axis moved away from the Poles, and is the Earth wobbling more than usual as it rotates? Well, according to scientific measurement by United States Geographical Survey (USGS), the answer to both of those questions is undeniably, Yes. The perpendicular axis of Earth changes throughout the year, predictably tilting in a movement that gives us the four seasons. The chart above shows exactly how far from perpendicular Earth has moved, with 2013 (Yellow), 2014 (Red), 2015 (Blue) until 26th July 2016 (Green) with the black arrows indicating the exact position on annual corresponding dates for the four years.  
(USGS 24-Hour >2.4m Worldwide Earthquakes 21st December 2016 (Site Now CLOSED ))
However, since 2013 the actual degree of tilt has become increasingly pronounced and much more unpredictable. At the same time, the rotational axis of Earth, the points through North and South Pole around which the planet rotates, have been wandering erratically in ways that have never before been recorded. Secondly, the frequency of earthquakes along all fault lines, along with general global volcanic activity, has also visually and statistically increased. Although not mentioned by Jim, I also began observing live seismology charts from USGS ANSS, graphs which constantly record movements on hundreds of permanent seismic monitors located around the world, and each day since our conversation, those readings have also become more and more erratic with Earth’s crust visibly vibrating, on a global scale. I’m certainly still not ready to buy into the imminent arrival of “Planet Bullshit”, and I know that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but according to the data I’ve been following, and the responses and questions from scientists, it appears that beyond the consequences of climate change and fracking, some very strange things are currently happening to Earth. 
(Background normal Seismograph Readings. Front December 2016 Readings)
If strange things are happening to Earth, then the one thing that has greater impact on our planet than human activity, is, solar activity. The Sun evolves through a scientifically predictable 11-year cycle, during which time its magnetic polarity reverses and in doing so, creates calculable Solar Maximums (periods of peak solar activity) and Solar Minimums (periods of low solar activity). The last magnetic pole reversal was completed in 2013, but the solar activity from the new Solar Maximum; geomagnetic storms and coronal mass ejections, was far lower than scientists had calculated. Some, but not all, scientists hold the view that as we near the end of December 2016, the Sun’s energy is still there, but it simply hasn’t been ejected,... Yet. 
(Left 11-Year Solar Cycles - Right Sun's Coronal Hole 21st December 2016)
In October 2016, in a public address President Obama warned of the impact that solar storms can have, saying: "Space weather has the potential to simultaneously affect and disrupt health and safety across entire continents."  (Shortly after Obama’s speech, Congress voted-down the spending required to retroactively harden the USA’s electrical infrastructure against the impact of future solar storms).  Observing live footage of the Sun via the NASA, ESA and US Space Observatory platforms, large coronal holes are clearly visible on the surface of the Sun as it revolves to face Earth. Coronal Holes on the surface of the Sun have a measurable correlation to earthquake magnitude and frequency on Earth, and are known to prelude large solar storms, otherwise known as Coronal Mass Ejections. Then, as if to confirm the coming storm, in a warning issued on December 21st 2016, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported their forecasts of sizeable solar storms directly impacting Earth within the coming days.
[*NOTE: On 23rd December, NOAA released a new statement that appeared to walk-back on the earlier warning:  "What is correct is that G2 geomagnetic storm levels were observed on December 21 and G1 geomagnetic storm levels observed on December 22. The geomagnetic storm levels observed on December 21-22 are fairly typical levels at this time in the solar cycle and were the result of Earth's interaction with a coronal hole high speed stream".  At around the same time, the real-time Rapid Earthquake Viewer provided by USGS announced, unexpectedly, that due to building maintenance, their monitors would be down for the next few weeks]. 
(REV Active Monitoring CLOSED)
Although solar storms are frequent events, and are responsible for what we call the Northern Lights, the last major damaging impact on Earth came way back in 1859, an incident that became known as the Carrington Event. Leading up to September 1st 1859, scientists had observed an unusual number of larger than normal Coronal Holes on the surface of the Sun as it had revolved to face Earth. Then, on September 1st, a massive solar storm glanced Earth and took down electronic telegraph systems across Europe and North America. The Carrington Event, which knocked out those electronic telegraph systems across two continents, arrived twenty years before electricity came to America’s first home. Back in 1859, beyond telegraph systems there was little else electrical that could be damaged, but imagine, in today’s electronically dependent society, the havoc that an equally powerful solar storm could inflict on power grids and all things electrical, which is today, practically everything that supports and controls society.

Having now spent ten days delving into this; so long because the data is so comprehensive and constantly updating, I still believe that “Planet X” is a rabbit hole down which "Prepper Jim" has unintentionally fallen. However, the scientific community driven by data, and perhaps more worryingly, the insurance industry driven by the possibilities of financial loss, believe that there is a high probability, not necessarily in the coming days but certainly within our lifetimes, that Jim’s preparations might not have been wasted.  

*As a side note, perhaps, since 2012 US statistics on home insurance show a ten-fold increase in former Police Officers, Submariners and Coast Guards purchasing properties in the Missouri Ozarks, presumably, all are now neighbours of “Prepper Jim”. Also, within the last five days, three of the four longest standing and most subscribed You Tube Channels covering Space Weather and Planet X, have been ‘Suspended’ due, apparently, to copyright infringement. Have I just fallen down the same rabbit hole as Jim?

Post 411: Strange Conversations in Bangkok - [Posted 17th December 2016]

As conversations go, even by Bangkok’s eclectic standards, that evening’s was certainly a strange one. Without invitation, Jim had introduced himself as a former police officer from New York, three years retired and now living in the Missouri Ozarks: “What about Trump?”   

 I’d arranged to meet friend and fellow motorcycle traveller Greg Frazier for our annual evening of drinking and bullshit on Sukhumvit Road, but due to the unpredictability of Bangkok’s transportation network, I’d arrived almost an hour earlier than planned.  Intent on conversation, Jim had found me on a random barstool killing time with an over-priced beer and desperately trying to avoid all forms of human contact. It’s not that I don’t like people, or that I don’t appreciate the opportunity to speak unbroken English once in a while, it’s just that I don’t particularly enjoy interacting with the kind of people who tend to frequent the bars on Lower Sukhumvit Road, the sin-centre of Bangkok.

Feigning deafness, I’d successfully dodged his political opening question, which experience tells me is a reasonable tactic to employ anywhere in the world, but avoidance of his follow-up would’ve appeared a little too rude, even for somewhere like Sukhumvit Road: “So, what brings you here?” When I’d replied “I actually live here”, I’m sure he’d almost winked at me. But, before I’d had time to qualify what ‘here’ had actually meant, he’d placed my second beer on his account and in doing so, had successfully hijacked the next thirty minutes of my life.

The following morning, as the alcoholic haze had finally begun to disperse, my mind had wandered back to that conversation with Jim. During recent summers in California, I’d encountered several people with a similar outlook on life to his; genuinely successful, sane and intelligent people who for often undeclared reasons, believe that the total breakdown of civil society is an imminent danger, and whilst leading seemingly normal lives, are discreetly preparing themselves for any eventuality. I’d always referred to these people as ‘survivalists’, but Jim had preferred the term ‘prepper’, describing himself as a person prepared, both mentally and physically, for whatever event might lead to geographical and social catastrophe on a global scale. In fact, Jim’s 10-day vacation in Bangkok had, according to him, been part of his private preparations, a final chance to flex certain muscles before, well, whatever lay ahead for the world. As for the causation ‘event’ that Jim considered most likely, it wasn’t the socio-economic meltdown and subsequent violent revolution that I’d suggested, but a catastrophe caused by forces originating from far beyond our own solar system…… “Oh, you mean aliens?” I’d asked.

Had Jim responded positively to my admittedly slightly sarcastic question, I could’ve easily walked away without ever casting my mind back to our conversation, but sadly, he hadn’t. Instead, he’d encouraged me to do my own research, to investigate certain natural phenomena using scientific data from such institutions as European Space Agency, United States Geographical Survey and NASA. The fact that Jim hadn’t quoted extracts from Revelations had certainly increased his credibility, but that, unfortunately, had made his departing advice slightly more chilling than it ought to have been. 

Apparently, from December 24th to 27th 2016, I need to be well away from Bangkok, or any other place in the world that isn’t located at least 1,000 feet above sea level and ideally, as far away from tectonic fault lines as possible. In this part of Asia finding such a location would be difficult, but a little research tells me that a home in somewhere like the Missouri Ozarks, would be almost perfect.    

Post 410: President Donald J. Trump - [Posted November 22nd 2016]

This blog’s been inactive for quite some time, but in my defense, I’ve spent the last eighteen months following the pantomime that turned out to be, the 2016 US Presidential Election. 
Of course, we now know that baring unforeseen circumstances, on January 20th 2017, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President, but for me, the biggest surprise of the entire electoral process was that more people hadn’t seen that result coming.
For eighteen long and arduous months the election bounced from one scandal to the next, both real and invented, as the once impartial media shamelessly backed their chosen candidates whilst shafting all other runners in the race. If I’d been asked to describe the process, from distant beginning to recent conclusion, I’d have to say that the entire election cycle became a metaphor for the rest of the world in 2016: “Totally Fucked-up”.
Even now, many of those who didn’t support Trump are protesting the outcome and claiming that based on ‘Popular Vote’, Hillary Clinton actually won the election. No matter how you feel about the Electoral College or Donald J. Trump, and in my eyes there’s a special place in Hell reserved for both of them, just to the right of the plot marked “Bill and Hillary Clinton”, making such claims after the event seems a little churlish. (I don’t remember German fans disputing the outcome of the ’66 World Cup Final because at the end of ninety minutes, instead of going directly to penalties, they'd played thirty more minutes of extra time during which time England scored two more goals). So, despite my best attempts to avoid excessive vulgarity, I think ‘Totally Fucked-Up’ is a fairly accurate description.
For the record, it should come as no surprise to any of you that in the absence of a genuine left-of-centre candidate, I'd "Felt The Bern" and supported the Senator from Vermont. However, with the benefit of hindsight, knowing that Americans had been so determined to send democracy back to the Dark Ages, I don't know why they didn't deploy the nuclear option and simply write-in "King George III".

The irony of writing a critique of US Democracy from my desk here in Thailand hasn’t escaped my attention, and if Alanis Morissette is still following this Blog then perhaps she’ll be in touch.….. don’t you think? 

Post 409: US Presidential Election 2016 [Posted November 7th 2015]

Hold onto your seats, because one year from today the United States of America will go to the polls and elect their 45th President, and my prediction is that during the next twelve months, things are going to get rather messy. Who eventually wins the election on November 8th 2016 depends entirely upon which candidate each of the two main political parties nominate – Democratic Party and Republican Party – and just like with the British electoral system, it’s not simply a question of which candidate receives the most votes on Election Day.

In simple terms, on November 8th 2016 voters in each State will cast a ballot for their preferred candidate, and the candidate who receives the most votes will gain the support of that state’s “Electors”. At some time in December 2016, the 538 “Electors” who together form the “Electoral College”, will vote for their State’s candidate and the first candidate to receive 270 Electoral College Votes will become the 45th President of the United States of America. Simple?

The serious candidates, as I see it, are Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Party, and for the Republican Party, which has a much deeper field, I suspect that Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump will be some way ahead of the other runners. By the end of July 2016, through a process of Primary Elections held in each State and Territory, each Party will have nominated a candidate who’ll appear on the November 8th presidential ballot papers.

Had I a vote in this election, my choice would be Bernie Sanders, but I don’t have a vote and I feel that in a close contest, Hillary Clinton will scrape through as the Democratic Party’s nominee. For the Republican Party, I have a hunch that it will come down to a tight and bitter battle between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump and whichever one of them wins, in exchange for the transfer of voter support at the Republican National Convention, they’ll select Marco Rubio to run as their Vice President.
In this election more than any other, choosing the eventual winner this early would be a fool’s game, but here goes nothing:

Hillary Clinton v Ted Cruz      =     President Hillary Clinton
Bernie Sanders v Ted Cruz      =     President Bernie Sanders
Hillary Clinton v Donald Trump  =  President Donald Trump
Bernie Sanders v Donald Trump  =  President Bernie Sanders

Of course, this is based on nothing more scientific than my own personal feelings and a little research into each of the candidates and their assumed positions on future policy. I see Ted Cruz as the least likable candidate, very closely followed by Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump is as yet an unknown quantity, but as the maverick candidate, he must be taken seriously. And, as for Bernie Sanders, well, beyond those who appear to unquestioningly ‘love’ only Trump, Cruz, Clinton or Wall Street, he appears to enjoy almost universal approval, and the value of a trustworthy politician in dangerous times such as these, ought not to be underestimated. 

[EDIT: In the early hours of 9th November 2016, Hillary R. Clinton, who on the morning of the election had been given a 98.10% chance of winning the Electoral College by a landslide margin, conceded the election .... making Donald J. Trump, President-Elect of the United States of America.] 

Post 408: Major Changes for ‘Tourists’ in Thailand - [Posted November 6th 2015]

For five glorious years, I’ve avoided the ravages of winter by spending six months of the year in, and around, Thailand. By accident of birth, a British Passport has allowed me to access reasonably priced double-entry tourist visas with, thankfully, very few questions asked. However, as of November 2015, the Thai visa system has changed.

Previously, I’d arrive in Thailand as a tourist under the 30 Day Visa Waiver Programme, a programme that remains unchanged. As that initial 30 days began to expire, I’d venture north into Laos, and at the Thai Embassy in Vientiane, I’d apply for a double-entry 60 Day Tourist Visa. That particular visa cost $60 and for a further $60 it could be extended for an additional 30 Days on two separate occasions. Under that system, with the exception of two short trips to Laos or Cambodia, I could remain in Thailand for 210 Days.    

However, as of November 2015, the double entry tourist visa has been withdrawn. It has been replaced by a Multi-Entry 6 Month Tourist Visa, which initially sounded like very good news indeed. However, in the words of the original Night Owl ‘This is Thailand’, a Kingdom where things are never quite as straight forward as they seem. To obtain this new multiple-entry visa you must:
                 1: Apply in your home country
2: Provide six months of bank statements with a balance that never for one day dips below  
   $6,000 (Some early applicants are saying the minimum amount is actually $12,000)
3: Provide a letter from your employer guaranteeing your continued and future employment.

Unfortunately, for me, I fail on all three of the new criteria. So, when the 30 days on my initial visa waiver are about to expire, I’ll head to Laos and apply for a 60 Day Single-Entry Tourist Visa at the Royal Thai Embassy in Vientiane. Hopefully, I’ll be able to extend that 60 Day Visa for an additional 30 Days at my local Immigration Office here in Bangkok. That should allow me to remain in Thailand until February 2016, at which time I’ll have to once again leave the country. Hopefully between now and then, the new system will have settled into place and my options for extending my stay will have become clearer.


Post 407: The Thai Festival of Song Kran 2558 - [Posted April 18th 2015]

Between 13th & 16th of April, Thailand celebrates the arrival of New Year with the festival of Song Kran. Every April, millions of tourists flock to Thailand and join the now infamous water fights in the Silom and Khao San areas of Bangkok. However, in the Bangkok district of Lak Si, the place I call "home", far away from the commercial tourist traps of the city, in an area where tourists seldom tread, this is how Thais really celebrate ….

Post 406: Supporting The Dhamanurak Foundation – [Posted April 14th 2015]

Our association with the Dhamanurak Foundation began in 2013. That year, my partner Nongnoo decided to celebrate her birthday with a party, but, it would be a party with a difference.  Instead of the usual night of food, beer and birthday cake with a few close friends in Bangkok, she’d decided to host a party for a large group of underprivileged kids in the Province of Kanchanaburi. 
 Located just a few miles from one of Thailand’s major tourist attractions, but appearing nowhere on any map, the Dhamanurak Foundation is home, school and medical centre for approximately 120 kids. Ranging between 1 and 16 years of age, the kids are either orphans, or from homes where for various reasons, their parents are simply unable to care for them. Founded in 2001 by a Buddhist Nun named Jutiporn, who continues to run the centre on a daily basis, the Foundation survives on voluntary contributions from the public.
 Back in 2013, Nongnoo had spent a couple of days gathering supplies and raising money before heading off to Kanchanaburi with four or five close friends. Repeating the celebration in 2014, we’d raised more money and a few more volunteers had joined us, but in 2015, we’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of others. Long before dawn on March 7th this year, fifty people in thirty fully-laden vehicles set out from their homes in various parts of Thailand to offer their support for the kids of the Dhamanurak Foundation.  
 In 2013 all efforts had been concentrated on the party, an opportunity to provide a few hours of fun and entertainment for the kids.  In 2014, the party had still been central to our efforts, but we’d also managed to provide additional support for the Foundation in terms of money, equipment, clothing etc. Another byproduct of our efforts has been an increase in public awareness, and that awareness appears to have kick-started an entirely new movement of independent supporters.
 This year, a group of university students had concentrated on hosting the party, which given the closer proximity of age and energy levels, was an amazing development for the kids. We’d still provided food and special treats for the event, but the student’s support has allowed us to concentrate our own efforts in other areas.
Without the support of volunteers, organisations like the Dhamanurak Foundation simply wouldn’t exist, but once established, money becomes their lifeblood. From our efforts, we do raise and give a certain amount of money to the Foundation, but this is Thailand and we’re silently aware that hard cash in any organization here can be the catalyst for corruption. It’s difficult to believe that anybody would steal money from these kids, but unfortunately, the world is what it is and not necessarily what we want it to be.    
 However, by providing the seemingly boring but costly everyday essentials; classroom equipment, cleaning materials, sewing machines, food, crockery etc., we help them to manage and release their own funds for various capital projects. The Dhamanurak Foundation’s list of needs is long, but with the help of some amazingly generous people, progress is being made. Recently, work has begun on replacing the temporary bamboo accommodation units with more modern low-maintenance permanent buildings, and at the same time, converting previously unused semi-derelict buildings into such things as mushroom growing houses, workshops and poultry enclosures.
If anybody following this would like to learn more, or to in some way help or become involved, then please drop me an email: GMail   geoffgthomas 

Post 405b: Why Don’t You Believe in God? – [Posted April 11th 2015]

If there’s one lesson that travelling’s taught me, it’s never to offer my personal opinions on partners, politics or religion, especially when drinking. So, when the only other English speaker asked me why I didn’t believe in God, I’d fobbed him off with a generic answer and quickly changed the subject. But, his question had intrigued me.
For all of my adult life I’ve consider myself an atheist, but, I’ve never really investigated the root of my non-belief. My parents were certainly Christian, Methodists, and at an early age I attended Sunday school, and perhaps, that’s where my journey towards atheism really began.
Before I could walk, I was christened, and as soon as I could talk I would kneel at the side of my bed each night and recite this simple prayer: Gentle Jesus meek and mild, look upon this little child, pity my simplicity, suffer me to come to thee. It’s safe to say that being christened wasn’t a personal choice, and the words of that first prayer had actually scared me. Why did I want ‘pity’, pity was for people who had worse lives than me, and why would I ever want to ‘suffer’ for anything?
Throughout my time at junior and secondary schools, I’d struggled with reading and writing - later diagnosed as dyslexia - but I’d known that I wasn’t an idiot and actively tried to prove that point by asking lots of relevant questions in class. In general my questions were welcomed by the teachers, but at Sunday school, well, the ministers weren’t quite so accommodating.
At school, my physics teacher had told me that the universe was almost fifteen billion years old and measurably expanding, and that planet earth had been around for at least four billion years. As I’d questioned his reasoning, he’d pointed me towards an entire section of scientific research material in the school library and encouraged me to investigate the evidence and to draw my own conclusions. In social studies, they’d introduced me to Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and shown that recognisable humans had inhabited the earth, specifically Africa, for at least 200,000 years. If I wanted further evidence of evolution, I should visit the Natural History Museum in London and evaluate the evidence for myself. So, at the age of twelve, we spent our summer vacation traipsing around London on an amazing voyage of discovery: The Science Museum, The Natural History Museum, The British Museum and the Planetarium. 
For my inquiring young mind, the school teachers’ responses to my questions were appropriate, but in church my questions had seemed neither reasonable, nor in most cases, answerable. I’d been told that God created the earth, and that five days later he created Adam before taking a day of rest. But, if Adam came two thousand years before Abraham, and Abraham lived two thousand years before Jesus, wouldn’t that make the earth, and therefore mankind, at the very most six thousand years old? When I’d innocently questioned the Sunday schools teachers’ timeline, they hadn’t pointed me towards scientific papers, to independent research or to physical evidence in various museums, they’d simply pointed me to their book, the Holy Bible.
The Bible wasn’t an easy read, but I’d struggled through a few random chapters and what I’d found had disturbed me far more than that early childhood prayer. At the time, many of the words had been beyond my comprehension, like ‘Apostasy’, but being told by a loving omnipotent God that if members of my own family ever cease believing in him, I should stone them to death, had seemed more than a little harsh. When it comes to wavering belief in God, I also discovered that the name Thomas had history, and I’d decided that it was time to stop asking questions, and, to stop attending a church that actively discouraged scrutiny.     

Post 405a: Je Susi Charlie [Posted 8th January 2014]

As you’re no doubt aware, on Wednesday 7th of January at the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, masked gunmen slaughtered ten members of the editorial team and two French police officers. The reason for this barbaric attack, it would seem, was a reaction to the publication, on several occasions, of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. On a personal note, I didn’t find the Charlie Hebdo cartoons to be particularly amusing, or informative, but any verbal assault on humour, politics or religious beliefs should surely lead to dialogue, not death. Sadly, this isn’t the first such deadly response to criticism, satirical or otherwise, of Islam and its envoy on earth, and I’m not referring to the previously published Danish cartoons or even Salman Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses.

For the first example of such a violent response to criticism of the Prophet, we must travel back to 7th century Mecca, the birthplace of Muhammad. Asma bint Marwan – daughter of Marwan – was a local poet who openly mocked Muhammad’s claim to be the Slave of Allah, Allah being the Arabic word for God. Vexed by the content of her verse, Muhammad had asked “Who will rid me of Marwan’s daughter?” That evening, one of Muhammad’s followers murdered Asma while she slept, and upon hearing the news Muhammad exclaimed “you have helped both God and His messenger”. If Islam is a religion of peace, then as with most other religions, it didn't get off to a very good start.
So, is it right that we, society, should be openly critical of religion? Many believers will say 'No', especially I suspect when it relates to their own chosen belief system, but on any logical basis, the answer must surely be 'Yes'. Religions, both monotheistic and polytheistic, are by their very nature expansionist, and in this respect Islam seems more determined than most. Religions are like political movements, without national borders, and their manifestos are their sacred books; Bible, Quran, Torah. As Islam’s ultimate and undisguised goal is to attract the remaining five-billion of the world’s non-believers to its fold, by all means necessary, then society has a moral obligation to review, dissect, question, and where necessary, even openly mock its policies and actions.

But, the free thinking world has become an amazingly sensitive beast, especially when it comes to discussing Islam. It’s a beast burdened by the weight of political correctness, and for this deafening silence in the face of mounting sickness, we must all accept a degree of personal responsibility. Since the birth of electronic media, the rise of Islamic violence has monopolised the limelight, but, although Islam has stolen the headlines, none of the faith based movements have been totally free from sin. Charlie Hebdo might not be funny, in my eyes at least, but at least they don’t discriminate. When it comes to being critical of faith, Charlie Hebdo are certainly advocates for equality.

No faith escaped the cartoonist’s pen, but only one movement reacted against them with violent and deadly force. Of course, the artists knew that their cartoons would be controversial, and that was precisely their point, they were a catalyst to conversation, debate and hopefully, enlightenment. They were fully aware of the risks to themselves, but they didn’t fear the wrath of Allah, to them Allah was as real as a Unicorn, what they feared, justifiably, was the reaction of individuals who’d been poisoned by his brutal manifesto.
Some will take exception to my choice of words, brutal manifesto, but as with the books of other religions, many of which are reflected in the Quran, the suras of the Quran and Hadith are no strangers to the glorification of violence. 'If they turn their backs, [on Islam] take them, and slay them wherever you find them'.

The editorial staff and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo paid the ultimate price for fulfilling their obligation to the world. But, hopefully, from their martyrdom will rise a movement, a new generation of critical thinkers who will detect the true scent of religion and identify it for exactly what it is.