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Lex Titia – End of the Roman Republic

Movement from a democracy to an autocracy seeks legitimacy in legal and democratic terms. Because the transition is from democracy, there is either implicit or explicit democratic action that is taken to limit or essentially destroy democratic power. This is seen throughout history. Why an autocracy needs such legitimation is mostly an issue of propaganda, but it is universally sought.

The Lex Titia was a law granting the Second Triumvirate power over democratic laws and institutions. Typical means were employed to have such a law passed, mainly control over the military, death sentences on the killers of Julius Caesar (which was extended to political enemies), and of course bribery and intimidation, threats, lies, murder and corruption.

In Juntaland, the same thing applies, but of course at a much smaller scale (excepting the the bribery, intimidation, threats, lies, murder and corruption -- which are indeed first rank). The collusion of a few to effectively be permanently placed above the electorate and their political desires, well, that is where we are now with the draft constitution.

Pericles and Direct Democracy

While representative democracy seems obvious, there have been and still are more direct democracies. This indeed is really what is at stake and how a disdainful military conceives of voting.

Do gardeners working outside of the Parliament’s building or farmers know anything about democracy? Of course not. Don’t talk to me about citizenry. Those people only go to vote because they were paid. -- Prayuth Chan-ocha, 01 January 2016

Indeed, gardeners and farmers do know about democracy, in ways the so-called Prime Minister does not, though that should be obvious since the military is the one who subverts democracy every few years. The military may accuse the electorate of venality (even though demonstrably untrue), yet they are the ones who are disenfranchising the electorate, and at the same time running roughshod over human rights and denying individuals and communities their self-determination.

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EU-Vietnam Free Trade Area (EVFTA)

The EU-Vietnam Trade Treaty is still under discussion regarding the implementation details as of early 2017, due to the complexity and the level of reform needed to implement it on the Vietnamese side. Negotiation concluded on 02 December 2016, and the treaty will take force in 2018. The EVFTA is just one of a number of initiatives and opportunities for FDI in Vietnam in 2017 and beyond.

EVFTA in the wake of TPP, Reforms Needed

The failure of the TPP has moved more focus onto the EVFTA as a driver of foreign direct investment into Vietnam. Still, major policy and institutional reform is needed to make the EVFTA a success, which would see the EU almost completely available as free trade area for Vietnamese products, as well as making European products and capital available to Vietnam. Eurocham has highlighted significant benefits for both Europe and Vietnam: > Under the EVFTA, the EU is committed to removing 84 percent of tariffs on goods traded between the two economies, which Behrens says is a huge opportunity for Vietnamese goods to penetrate deeper into the European market, particularly export staples such as pepper, coffee, textiles, and footwear products. > > On the other hand, he noted, European merchandise, including wines, frozen pork, milk, and medicines will also have greater access to the Vietnamese market thanks to the corresponding tariff removal. > > Asked to compare the benefits the EVFTA and the TPP may bring to Vietnam, Behrens said the EU agreement is expected to contribute seven to eight percent to Vietnam’s overall growth on an annual basis. > > Citing results from recent research conducted in Hanoi, Behrens added that Vietnam is expected to rake in $2.2 billion worth of gains in welfare from the trade pact by 2020, and $4.1 billion by 2025. > > The EVFTA will also help increase wages for unskilled Vietnamese workers by 3 percent due to changing market dynamics and enable a 50 percent spike in Vietnam’s exports to the EU by 2020. Vietnam’s imports from the EU are also projected to rise 43 percent by 2020, he noted.

RCEP, ASEAN and Beyond

Beyond the EVFTA, there is the primary neighbor bloc of the other nine ASEAN members, as well as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) includes Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea. Regarding RCEP, there should be some opportunities in this somewhat unweildy but extremely large market (spanning nearly half the worlds' population and 30% of GDP). Vietnam has an opportunity to act as a corridor from ASEAN (and RCEP) to the EU based on the EVFTA. Similar trade agreements have been concluded between the EU and South Korea and also the EU and Singapore.

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The Northeast Asean Sea

An end to the geographic lies of China, where a misnomer becomes an excuse for criminality. The Northeast Asean Sea

Geographic Lies of China

The geographic lies of china are well documented. The so-called South China Sea is simply one of the more anachronistic, if not damning. The English-speaking world need not continue this farce. And so what should one call the East Vietnamese Sea (of course Vietnam has only one coast), or the Western Philippine Sea? That is simple, and obvious, and it stands on a political and geographic truism. For ASEAN as a body there is a plain geography, and the sea bordering the Northeastern part is both true internationally and correct geographically.

Ongoing Aggression and Terrorism

The ongoing aggression, most recently of a near-collision with US Military aircraft in International Airspace, as well as blatant piracy with the attack, threats of violence, destruction of property and theft of assets from a Vietnamese ship. Anyone who thinks that China can be pacified by a lack of response is completely ignorant of the strategy it is following, as well as the lengths it will go to intimidate and essentially seize all resources in the Northeast Asean Sea. Only a concerted effort by all international parties, including ASEAN will forestall and turn back such barbarism.

What is in a Name

Those of us who have the power of commentary and can help correct this barbaric display have recourse to properly naming such behavior, as well as the correct name for the location where such terrorist and criminal activities are taking place: The Northeast Asean Sea. Alternatively, the Champa Sea, the East Vietnamese Sea, the North Malaysian Sea, or the Western Philippine Sea. But at all costs, this cannot be called the South China Sea, as China sees this as a license to murder and loot.

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Alternatives to Earth Class Mail

2019 Update - I simply no longer use remailers. Everything gets shipped directly to Chiang Mai, Thailand whether that be from Ebay, Amazon, or more often, Lazada (the Amazon of Southeast Asia). I pay the extra shipping charges (at least on Amazon, as in many cases the shipping costs are the same on Ebay and nearly nonexistent on Lazada). I use Wyoming Agents for inbound physical mail which is very infrequent, at a cost of $50 USD/year. When I need something forwarded (e.g., a new credit card) then that costs me an additional $25 USD or so. Yes, expensive, but infrequent.

Earth Class Mail Sucks

I was a customer for about 4 years of Earth Class Mail, starting in 2008. Besides very poor service, they nearly tripled their charges over that time (and this was a few years ago, I imagine it is worse now). Even simple requests to improve the service are met with thankful tidings and then silence, for years-on-end. It's really quite maddening. In any case, I've abandoned them, and it turns out all for the best. There are a myriad of other service providers who offer the same or similar services. Here are a few I have looked into that appear to have good offerings. There are many more out there.

Remailing and Virtual Address Services

2016 Update - Over the past few years there has been some segmentation of this growing market for mailing addresses and remailing services. Traditionally the service was for travellers, those without a fixed address at least part of the year (RV and boating enthusiasts). Then virtual locations became popular both with expats and foreigners who had the same need for themselves or their business. Finally, a large segment emerged for people wishing to buy online (in the US, mainly but also elsewhere) and to reduce the cost of, or in some cases make possible, shipment to their actual address. Many countries are not supported on platforms like Amazon and Ebay, and these remailers (and virtual shopping services) became popular. Finally we are seeing an integration of company formation, virtual address, and remailing services.

Caution on Remailers

The main remailing services focused on virtual shopping have large marketing budgets and horrible reputations. These should be avoided. Some people have satisfactory experiences, but too many do not. The biggest cost comes when there are handling fees (this is true for all companies in this business), and worse if they require the use of specific carriers, especially courier services for shipping abroad. This is a scam, because the wholesale price to them is a lot less than what they charge, whereas if they were to use cheaper mailing services, especially USPS Priority shipping out of the USA, they would earn less money. Costs can balloon significantly because of added import duties, taxes, insurance and fees.

Virtual Shopping-focused Remailers

There are others out there but those listed here: Viabox, Shipito, and MyUS are a good indication of the shady side of remailing. Folks are looking to save money, as well as have access to various ecommerce sites that don't normally ship to where they live (Amazon, Ebay, etc.), but in the end costs can balloon, especially for these virtual shopping-focused remailers.

The Notorious Viabox

Notorious in not a good way. Indeed, they had to change their name due to a variety of lawsuits and judgements against them. A perusal of the Pissed (-Off) Consumer page on Viabox should give sufficient pause. The biggest problem with them is fraud. Fraud because they say they support USPS as a shipping agent, and then when you try and get that, they say they can't (after several weeks of emails back and forth). I ended up getting charged $128 USD for shipping and handling, for something that should have cost $50-70 USD at most. But that isn't the end of the matter. By forcing the use of DHL, I was hit with another $80 USD in tariffs, taxes and fees. Part of this was because they didn't write down the correct contents (used vs. new items) and also because of the use of DHL, which prepaid the incorrect tariffs and then demanded them from me. Communication is atrocious and the website is full of lies, plus their online system is so crippled nearly everything requires an email to the support dept, which answers the email and closes the ticket (and another department is supposed to then handle it). Pretty much the most amateurish operation I've ever encountered.

The Suspicious Shipito

I've not personally dealt with them, and was going to use them after I exited Viabox, but there are enough horror stories on the web with them. It seems they used to be great, but now there are many reports that they have jacked up the prices and are basically doing the same Earth Class Mail routine. Not to mention poor communication and customer service, something rife in this industry, unfortunately.

MyUS, a new entrant

There are some fairly good reviews for MyUS, there are also enough signs it is going the way of Viabox and Shipito. Apparently, as per the usual, there are a lot of hidden charges with MyUS.

Traditional Mail Forwarding Services

The following are some current mailbox/mail forwarding services. One can expect to have their mail scanned and available by pdf, and to group mail and packages together for remailing. These are usually safer as their business model includes two revenue streams: virtual addresses and remailing. Here are a few, with more description below: - Mail Link Plus, - Mailbox Forwarding, - My RV Mail, - PoboxZone, - St. Brendan's Isle, and - Virtual Post Mail

Mail Link Plus

Mail Link Plus is based in Las Vegas and offers mailbox and mail forwarding. Street address comes standard and they do mail scanning. Prices start at $30/3 months. Reasonable. Haven't tried them.

Mailbox Forwarding

Mailbox Forwarding has real addresses in Michigan (free), Los Angeles and Pompano Beach, FL (additional price/month). Reasonable $10/mo not including additional address charges. Not so bad, though the shipping costs ended up being more than expected. Also, the address charge and monthly fee added up, especially for my needs which are fairly light. Left them due to better prices elsewhere.

My RV Mail

My RV Mail, as the name suggests, focuses on the RV people, but the services are the same needed by expatriates. Mail forwarding services, online scans of mail, florida address. Starting around $25/mo for full access, down to $15/mo for yearly prepay. Haven't tried them.

St. Brendan's Isle

St. Brendan's Isle targets boating people, as well as other travelers and traveling business people. Added value of helping establish Florida residency. Around $20/mo with online access to scanned mail. Prepay $100 and monthly debits against the credit. Used these guys for years, and they worked fairly well. The online shipping tool they could never fix a part of so every shipment needed a few emails to get going. I shipped an item through them that was lost on the way out of the USA (USPS Priority) and there was never any resolution (no insurance, nothing). This soured me on them and I switched to Mailbox Forwarding (below).

Virtual Post Mail

Virtual Post Mail offers a very low introductory price but reasonable prices after the trial. Address in Los Angeles, CA (actually Walnut, CA). Check deposit services also available.

PoboxZone (Nevada, Delaware, Wyoming)

PoboxZone offers mail forwarding in Las Vegas, Nevada. They will offer addresses in Delaware and Wyoming in 2017. Besides receiving and forwarding mail PoboxZone does mail scanning, with pdfs sent via email and/or directly uploaded to Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive. They have free shredding of unwanted mail and free storing until mailout. Packages and parcels can be received as well, which is pretty rare among mail forwarding companies. It's a good solution for travelers and even companies that haven't got a physical office. Clearly they are targeting this virtual office for companies niche, which is a wise move in my opinion. If they integrate actual company formation as well, that could be a very powerful value add.

Wyoming Agents

Wyoming Agents focuses on the Agent requirement in Wyoming LLC and Corporation registrations. By providing that service (along with the registered address) they provide the legal requirement along with a privacy service. In addition, for a low cost, they offer remailing services. However, they do not accept mail for individuals, only for a company name.

Bottom Line and How to Choose a Remailer

Like with many kinds of industries, organizations can be good and then go bad in terms of prices and service. There is no guarantee that a good experience today will stay that way tomorrow, and certainly pricing can and does change. It pays to stick with a smaller operation that is not greedy, but at the same time is competent and professional, and they actually like happy customers. Again, even these relationships can go bad, so just keep in mind that moving to a different remailer/virtual address is almost a certainty. Stay organized regarding all the places that addresses need to change, and be prepared to make a change when needed. There is no reason to suffer for months on end from inflated prices, poor customer service, and incompetent remailing. While I still have virtual address needs, I have backed away from remailing. There has been an increase in availability of items to ship to my country of residence (Thailand) from the likes of Amazon, Ebay, and also new ecommerce sites such as Lazada which operate there. While I had savings on many items, there were also significant costs that may have made it all not worth the trouble, in the long run.

Post Office Form 1583

This form is required to give permission to have a third party collect your postal mail (does not apply to parcel shippers, but only to the US Postal Service). This also needs to be notarized, so if you are far away from a Notary, or one is more expensive (say, abroad), then check out NotaryCam which is an online service. Apparently this is a valid method good in all 50 US States.

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What is Indochina?

Defined by what it is not

One interesting aspect of the term Indochina is that the name is derrived from the French Indochine meaning the land between India and China. That is, the name refers to what it is not. Indochina is not India and it is not China, it is the space between these two (of course Nepal and Bhutan also have this distinction).

The Countries of Indochina

French Indochina

Indochina is more closely associated with French Indochina which was a territory governed by France which included Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, as well as Kwangchowan. However, at different times and in different contexts, the country of Thailand (formerly Siam) as well as Myanmar (formerly Burma) have been included in what we will refer to as Greater Indochina. The exclusion of Malaysia from Indochina is a twofold occurance. For one, Malaysia as it currently is composed includes a Mainland Southeast Asian component as well as Insular Southeast Asian component (primarily a large section of the Island of Borneo). As well, the culture of Malaysia is quite different and has an entirely different historical trajectory, from the early sultanates in the 12 century.

British Indochina

Portuguese influence and and British colonization of Malaysia is part of a shared history with Myanmar. In that sense, we can talk of a British Indochina.

Siamese Indochina

Specifically in the ways in which Britain (along with France) pressured Thailand to give up its acquired territory, which consisted of much of Laos and Cambodia, and parts of Vietnam and Myanmar (the Shan States). World War II was the undoing of greater Thailand, which was forced to concede previous territorial ambitions.

Mainland Southeast Asia

It is as well possible to look at Indochina purely from a geographical perspective (geological as well as political geography), specifically as Southeast Asian mainland. This is then a part of the Far East, the southeastern part of the Asian continent. However, Bangladesh could be included. The main reason for Bangladesh's disinclusion is its historical, cultural and ethnic identity as a part of South Asia.

Greater Mekong Subegion

Another political/geographical division is the Greater Mekong Subregion which includes the five countries of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, as well as Yunnan province (and sometimes Guangxi province) of China. The main idea is talking about what countries are touched by the Kong river, but also (from the Chinese perspective) the economic integration of the southern provinces with the closest neighbors.

Religion in Mainland Southeast Asia

ASEAN, the Association of South East Asian Nations, a 10 country political and economic entity, is well known for its diversity. Mainland and island. Dozens of ethnicities and languages, as well as religions. The three major religions are all found here: Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. The same is true in Mainland Southeast Asia. While Vietnam is nominally atheistic, a variety of religions (including Christianity and Mahayana Buddhism) play an important role in the society. Religion in Vietnam is influenced heavily by the Chinese, especially compared with Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Indeed, Buddhism is the second largest religion in Malaysia as well. At the same time, the status of Islam in all but Malaysia is very much the same. That is, the muslim faith has a very tiny role to play.

Drawing the Boundaries of Indochina

  • And so, drawing the boundaries of Indochina, we see historically, politically and geographically, that the exclusion of Malaysia is a cultural/historical/religious one.
  • And so, Indochina is neither India, nor China, nor muslim, nor insular.
  • From the perspective of political geography, Indochina is the five countries of Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
  • Religiously, it is diverse but primarily Buddhist.
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Living in Chiang Mai

Living in Chiang Mai has many aspects, and what it's like will be as much about the person doing the living as the place being lived in. My guess is the question is more like "what is it like as a foreigner to live in Chiang Mai". Here are a few aspects that come to mind. Language: if you don't speak Thai, it can be frustrating, but a little Thai can go a long way. The local people in Chiang Mai are generally friendly and easygoing and so basic stuff is quite low-friction, even with minimal Thai. That said, this is a Thai culture and the Thai language is vital to understanding what is going on. English is not widely spoken by most Thai people. Learn a little Thai can help, learn how to read Thai and life is much, much easier and better (such as communicating with the local Thai people). Costs and Availability of Goods: Chiang Mai has great prices on a number of things, including rent, food (local markets and local restaurants), even things like DSL Internet and cell phone service are less expensive than in the US. Some things are more expensive, such as computers and cell phones, though only by about 20%. Camera equipment is more expensive than off Ebay and Amazon, but many Ebay sellers offer International shipping for free, and usually ship out of Hong Kong. Some things are difficult to get, and/or need to be imported, such as books, kindle readers, even an Aeron chair was cheaper to buy on ebay, ship to Thailand, and pay VAT, than to get one from Bangkok. There are three Apple stores and an Apple Care location (in Kad Suan Kaew), prices are slightly more than in the US. Regarding foreign food, there are enough foreign restaurants and grocery stores to cover most items desired. Overall, cost of living can be 2-3 times less expensive (depending on lifestyle). Transportation: Chiang Mai metropolitan area is not that large and so getting around is fairly easy. There are a variety of transportation options: tuk-tuks, songthaews (trucks), taxis, bicycling, motorcycling, and cars. There is not really a bus system here, but most transportation is fairly low cost. The traffic can be a bit hectic and some foreigners shouldn't try and drive in it (I know many Thai people who won't ride a motorbike in Chiang Mai because of the pace of traffic). However, this is nothing like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh or Bangkok. Climate and weather: It gets hot in Chiang Mai. Most foreigners not from a tropical location will suffer from the heat. The ways of dealing with it is to follow the Thai people. Avoid being out in the heat and direct sun. Wear clothing that covers the skin, including hats, jackets (even mittens) and use umbrellas/parasols. Also, just stay out of the heat during the day. Stay inside with the air conditioning like all sensible Thai people! Have to go shopping mid-day? That is what Malls are made for! Don't exercise mid-day (only before dawn and near dusk during the hot season). Pace of Life and Events: Chiang Mai and Thailand in general people work hard but they aren't so serious, and most enjoy family and spending time (especially eating meals) with friends and co-workers. Food is an important aspect of Thai culture. Another is Thai Buddhism, and most Thai males are expected to spend some time as a monk at some point in their life. The daily feeding of monks who make their rounds, the lunar weekly "Buddha Days" and the Buddhist calendar of various festivals and events, combined with the worship at various (Buddhist and non-Buddhist) shrines throughout the area are a part of the pace of life. For the large celebrations there are days-long festivals which are very important and combine the importance of visiting and revering parents and family as well as having fun with friends and neighbors. The main thing is to smile, have patience, and try and get along. People from bigger towns and more aggressive cultures might get annoyed, but coming from Honolulu where I lived for 7 years previous to moving to Chiang Mai, I found it to be a similar size and pace of life. Expat Community: There are various kinds of expats in Chiang Mai. Many should be avoided, especially the retired bar-dwellers and the so-called digital nomads. However, there are many interesting long-term residents who can be interesting to know, as well as some of the return visitors who come every year. Work: There are a more limited number of jobs available, as work permits are complicated and are created by organizations who specifically need foreign workers, mostly around teaching English. Entrepreneurial foreigners can figure out how to create and grow a business in Thailand. Health: There are some health risks in Thailand, such as the increasing air pollution (very bad in Feb/Mar with burning of the fields), dengue fever (I've had it once in Chiang Mai, Thailand, once in Honolulu, Hawaii). Crazy traffic. That said, there is very good, inexpensive healthcare. Good hospitals (also some mediocre ones) are very affordable and one can find reasonable health insurance. Something the west simply no longer has. Education: In Chiang Mai there are several universities and private schools. It is something of the education hub of Northern Thailand. For people with children there will be an additional expense of private schools, though unless one goes for the full-on International schools, they are much less expensive than private schools in other places. Some complain about the level of education in these schools but there are few places in the US with excellent education and some places are much more dangerous. Crime: There is a degree of crime though most of it is constrained to certain areas. There is some amount of Yaba/Speed/Crank, prostitution and other issues. Mostly my experience is that it is safer to wander around Bangkok or Chiang Mai early in the morning than places like San Francisco, Honolulu, or Seattle. That isn't to say that foreigners are completely safe as in certain areas (Phuket, Pattaya) they are seen as targets by a criminal element. There is simply much less of this element in Chiang Mai, though certainly one can provoke a bad situation if you go into an area where Thai men are drinking heavily. Especially if there is a lack of respect shown.