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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.