Showing posts from 2007

I'm Off

I'll be offline for the next week or so. If anything major happens, feel free to post it in the comments. Otherwise, I'll try and catch up when I get back. Happy new year.

Happy Holidays and Sorry About the Opium

I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But, if you are expecting a picture frame, Aqua Dots, or Louis Vuitton handbag for the holidays, your gift might not arrive. According to this news item , Customs and Border Protection seized a shipment of picture frames with opium concealed inside the frames. Seem like good police work in the ordinary way, but is even more surprising considering that it was a UPS shipment at the UPS hub in Louisville. Given the volume passing through that border, it is amazing the shipment was caught. In other seizure news, you won't be getting your Aqua Dots from Seattle nor will you get your fake handbags from Atlanta . On an unrealted note, today I saw the movie No Country for Old Men . It is a really good movie if you are interested in well-made character studies of the criminally insane and slow talking Texans. I mention this only to note the poor showing Customs and Border Protection had in the funny characterization of a Border Patrol Agent on the U.S.

Spicy Seizure

I like hot peppers as much as the next guy. Maybe more so. I am particularly fond of hot Italian-style giardiniera . Scala's Packing (click on Italian Style Peppers) in Chicago makes the best. But, I am also fond of the humble jalapeno, which may be why this story caught my eye. It seems that someone smuggled several bricks of marijuana into the U.S. from Mexico by submerging them in bottles of pickled jalapenos. Perhaps they figured no Gringo would stick his or her hand into the jar just on a hunch. Or maybe the thinking was that a dog could not smell through the peppers to find the pot. Hard to tell. Either way, Customs and Border Protection did its job and found the drugs. But, Dude! I wonder whether . . . you know . . . the weed . . . if smoked . . . would have had a spicy Chili's Tex-Mex kind of harsh to kill the mellow. Only Otto Mann would know for sure. Now I am hungry.

Gearing Up for a Trade War?

Since 2001, Mexico has been entitled under the NAFTA to send trucks into the U.S. Since 2001, the U.S. has refused to allow that in any meaningful way. First, before I get any e-mail or comments about the danger NAFTA represents to our sovereignty, keep in mind that the U.S. has so far refused to do what it agreed to in the NAFTA. This is not a sovereignty issue. The U.S. government still controls the borders, at least in a legal sense (if not always in a practical sense). The current Bush administration created a pilot program to permit authorized Mexican trucking companies to operate in the U.S. Now the funding for that program is at risk in Congress. Based on this article , it seems that Mexico is getting fed up with waiting and is contemplating retaliation. Under NAFTA, retaliation means imposing duties on U.S. merchandise shipped into Mexico at a level equivalent to the harm Mexico suffers as a result of the truck blockade. This is not good news for the farmers and ranchers who s

Ford News Flash

If you have an interest in NAFTA, this is big news. As you know, Customs & Border Protection has been pursuing a $42 million recordkeeping penalty against Ford for failing to produce backup documents supporting certificates of origin from a Mexican supplier. For background see this earlier post . Earlier today, and despite winning a preliminary ruling, CBP agreed to settle the case for zero penalty from Ford. The settlement is done and a stipulated dismissal has already been filed with the District Court. According to industry sources, the only statement the government has made regarding the substance is that it is re-evaluating is policy regarding NAFTA recordkeeping. This is tremendously good news for NAFTA importers. As I have said previously, we all owe Ford a debt of gratitude for fighting the good fight. Ford's counsel deserves congratulations as well.

Check Your Journal of Commerce

For those of you who get the paper copy of the Journal of Commerce , the most recent issue includes an interview with me. Once I get permission, I'll put up a link to the article. For now, I'll leave it to you old-school readers to enjoy the article. While we're at it, I was also quoted in the November 19 edition in a piece on NAFTA enforcement. That article is online, but you'll need a JOC username and password to get to it. Also, as long as I am engaged in shameless self-promotion, I will be speaking at the annual Georgetown Law CLE International Trade Update . Last year, we had lots of fun with an oral argument on whether Luke Skywalker and Han Solo are human for purposes of customs classification. This year is sure to be a good program; although my part will be a more mundane discussion of internal reviews and prior disclosures.

One Last Thing

I was going to steal this from Wayla-guy. I am too tired for that. Instead, go here and read his take on the Republican debate. And, in particular, watch the linked You Tube video in which the candidates discuss how to "fix" NAFTA.

Decisions, Decisions

I haven't commented on a court decision in a while, so now I will comment on three. In U.S. v. National Semiconductor , the CIT (via Judge Musgrave) went back to the question of what interest might be due on unpaid duties where the violations were the subject of a prior disclosure. In a typical disclosure case, the importer pays the duties and the only penalty is the interest on the withheld amounts. The avoidance of larger penalties is the value of the the disclosure process. I blogged about this case previously when Judge Musgrave both declined to mitigate the interest penalty and ordered the importer to pay compensatory damages to make the U.S. whole for the loss of the time value of the money. That decision was overturned in part and sent back to the CIT for a new determination that does not award compensatory interest. Now, in the remand decision, the Court of International Trade, at the urging of the United States has awarded pre-judgment interest in addition to the int

False Copyright Claims

Interesting piece from Boing Boing. False copyright claims are a lucrative business for sleazoids - Boing Boing Think about this the next time you buy a print or a coffee mug at a museum gift shop. No one, anywhere owns the copyright to a Da Vinci or Rembrandt. The question is whether taking that public domain piece of art and placing it on a coffee mug, sweatshirt, or note pad creates a new work. Even if it does, the public domain parts of the new work (i.e., the original painting, which is the true value of the chotchky) can be taken and re-used at will. It's in the public domain, so you already own it. Also, remember that works by Picasso, Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollack and many other artists still remain under copyright. So don't go into business selling Edward Hopper Nighthawks-brand baby wipes and say I told you to do it. For good measure, I give you this picture by Hieronymous Bosch, who has been dead for almost 500 years. Thus, I feel safe that it is in the public domain


Clearly I have no friends in the highest reaches of the American Bar Association, an organization to which I have given years of effort and cold cash in the form of dues, travel expenses, and time away from work. And yet, hard as it may be for you--my dedicated readers--to accept, once again I have been snubbed. For reasons that can only relate to an ongoing conspiracy to silence and discredit me, I have been left off the Blawg 100 ! Sure, I am less snarky than David Lat of Above the Law and not nearly as prolific as Denise Howell of Bag & Baggage , Lawgarithms , and Between Lawyers . Nor am I as high-brow as Mr. Becker's and Judge Posner's The Becker-Posner Blog . But, so what? What do those guys know about the tariff classification of control knobs for appliances ? Nothing, I tell you; and that is not an uncomplicated topic. I will soldier on. No doubt, like van Gogh or Pauly Shore, my true genius will only be recognized after my death.

Update and Legislation

This piece updates the status of Goran Pavic , the trucker Customs and Border Protection arrested on an Interpol warrant for war crimes in Croatia. He remains in custody in Detroit although the magistrate on the case seems to be questioning the arrest. Rep. Nancy Boyda of Kansas announced that she plans to introduce the NAFTA Accountability Act this week. The bill contains five conditions for continued U.S. participation in NAFTA. Those conditions and the U.S. party responsible for the determination are: Gains in U.S. jobs and living standards (by the Secretary of Labor) Increased U.S. domestic manufacturing (by the Secretary of Commerce) Improved health and environmental standards, with respect to food imports and to U.S.-Mexico border areas (by the Secretary of Agriculture, the Administrator of the Food and Drug Administration, and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency) Reduced flow of illegal drugs from Mexico and Canada (by the Attorney General) Mexican democr

Peru is a Done Deal

Today the Senate approved the Peru Trade Promotion Agreement by a vote of 77 to 18. This clears the way for the president to sign it into law. Here is a NY Times article on the passage. As these things go, this is not a very big deal in terms of economic impact for the U.S. Total trade between the U.S. and Peru is less than $8 billion per year, accounting for less than half a percent of the total U.S. trade volume. Peru has a population of about 28 million and a land area slightly smaller than Alaska. Economically, Peru is heavily dependent on its mineral wealth for exports. From 2002 to 2006, there was consistent economic growth and currency stability although the need to improve infrastructure has limited foreign investment. In addition to copper, gold, and petroleum, major exports include textiles and guinea pigs. Major imports to Peru are plastics, machinery, and vehicles. The U.S. is the largest exporter to Peru followed by China, Brazil, and Ecuador. In case you are wondering, t

News Review: Excellent Article on Myth of the NAU

My groundbreaking work debunking the myth of the North American Union has, once again, been snubbed. Nevertheless, this article by Drake Bennett of the Boston Globe is excellent. The author not only discusses the facts but also the political and social reasons that the myth persists and is gaining traction. While we're at it, David Brook's recent New York Times piece covered similar ground and, more important, took a much needed pot shot at Lou Dobbs. Finally, here is more on the great Honduran sock debate.

Counterfeit News of Interest

Customs and Border Protection is responsible for preventing the importation of counterfeit merchandise. This news item from CBP says it recently intercepted a shipment of 20,000 fake "Coach" belts from China in Seattle. Clearly, the holidays will be less bright for the fashion conscious bargain hunter this year. Which, by the way, is as it should be. A more interesting story is this piece from the New York Times. Famous luxury merchant Tiffany has sued famous online auctioneer eBay to force eBay to get counterfeit merchandise off its web site. This creates some interesting questions concerning eBay's role in the transactions. eBay argues, I'm paraphrasing here, that it just provides a communication channel connecting buyers and sellers. The way eBay sees it, the seller is liable to Tiffany, not eBay. Tiffany, of course, disagrees. Among other things, it points out that eBay profits from the sale of fake merchandise on its site. Assume that eBay is held lia

Two-fer Tuesday

This goes in the customs news of the weird category : Customs and Border Protection stopped a driver on the southern border attempting to illegally enter a U-Haul full of cheese and two parrots. Upon being pulled over for secondary inspection, the driver readily confessed to smuggling the merchandise. One must wonder (at least I must), if the two categories of contraband are somehow related? Do the birds like the cheese? Were the parrots destined to become part of some nasty domestic bird pannini ? We can only hope the Department of Agriculture tells us the details. This goes in the category of proof that I may not be that bright: I have not been on my bike in a while, a long while. Recently, I bought a new trainer so I can pedal in my basement through the dark and cold winter. Two nights ago I decided it was time to get on the bike. That's smart. The not-so-smart part is that I made that decision immediately after dinner, which consisted of a burrito and (uncharacteristically) a

Cool Hand Customs

Sometimes the law turns on the strangest of details. Samuel Aaron, Inc. v. United States , a Federal Circuit decision affirming the Court of International Trade is a good example. The issue here was whether protests were timely filed. The case is more complicated than most because the relevant liquidation was a reliquidation and the only notice of reliquidation was an off-line binder in the customhouse that was separate from the normal binder of printouts generated by ACS. Later, after generating bills for unpaid duties, Customs placed ACS notices in the binder of bulletin notices. What we have here is a first liquidation notice separate from the electronic status report, separate from the paper courtesy notice, separate from the binder of regular liquidation notices, and then a second notice in the regular binder with an icorrect reliquidation date. Is that a failure to communicate ? The Court of International Trade dismissed the plaintiff's challenge to its denied protest finding

Is Customs Working Too Hard?

Look at this story . The thing about having a job to do as a professional is the ability to exercise discretion. Digging ditches is an honorable profession. But ditch diggers rarely get to decide how deep or wide to dig. They follow directions and do what is required for the particular job. It is left to some engineer to determine what this particular ditch needs to look like. To some extent the same goes for Customs and Border Protection. There are times when the "by the book" or "just following procedure" approach does not make sense. One example is the story noted above where a fire engine from Quebec was trying to enter New York to keep a building from burning down. CBP ran the vehicle and the firefighters through the normal process and held the truck up for 8 minutes. Apparently, one of the firefighters had a criminal record. OK, that makes sense if he was in a Winnebago with a bunch of frat boys and a keg. But this was a firetruck responding to a fire. I'm

Customs & Border Protection at Work

More on the international trade importance of socks . It seems CBP intercepted Chinese socks transshipped through Ghana. The socks not only avoided quantitative restrictions but also claimed benefits under AGOA. Breaking up a scheme right out of a 1960's sitcom, CBP found a man in a suitcase in the back of a car crossing in from Mexico. Finally, Customs arrested a man entering the U.S. from Canada who is wanted on an Interpol warrant for war crimes in Croatia . The strange thing about this arrest is that the guy was driving a tractor-trailer bound for Florida carrying what I assume was a commercial shipment of recreational benches and soap. I assume he was working in Canada as a trucker.

NAFTA Expansion?

The House voted on the Peru Free Trade Agreement yesterday. There is a lot of campaign season politics involved in this vote. The Senate still needs to pass the bill before the agreement can be implemented. That's fine. There are so many FTA's now that the passage of a new one is of little note as far as the trade community is concerned. What I find interesting is the number of people, mostly bloggers, who insist on calling new free trade deals--particularly in the Americas--an expansion of NAFTA. See here , here , and here . Its not true. NAFTA is a free-standing deal as are the deals with the CAFTA-DR group and the pending agreements with Columbia and Panama. The main reason this is not an expansion of the NAFTA is that for companies wanting to take advantage of the NAFTA and also CAFTA, for example, the Canadian and Mexican content counts against them. The Peru agreement, if passed, will require that merchandise originate in the U.S. or Peru. The rules of origin wil

On Bismarck and Brokers

Otto von Bismarck is reported to have said "Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made." Clear evidence of that is Senate Bill 2045 . This bill, introduced in September by Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas is intended to sure up consumer product safety by reforming the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Section 15 of the bill states: Section 17 (15 U.S.C. 2066) is amended by adding at the end thereof the following: (i) The Commission may-- (1) designate as a repeat offender, after notice and an opportunity for a hearing, any person found by the Commission to have committed multiple violations of subsection (a); and (2) refer any such person to United States Customs and Border Protection with a recommendation that the person's import license be terminated in accordance with that agency's procedures. The subsection (a) referred to is the provision that allows Customs to refuse admission into the United States of merchandise that does not comply with

Customs News of the Weird

Shopping cart crime . Apparently, the aftermarket for Home Depot shopping carts in the Caribbean is robust enough to spawn their theft and smuggling out of the U.S. Edwards confused on the borders of North America . According to John Edwards, NAFTA has caused the recent flood of unsafe toys from China. I'm not sure why that would be given that China is a long way from North America. Colbert on the North American Union . Great fun and actual information. I can't and don't vouch for anything else on the linked page.

Heartland Cleanup

Heartland By-Products is one of those cases that seems to never quite end. The basic facts are that Heartland wanted to import sugar syrup from Canada to the U.S. and sought to arrange its manufacturing in a way that avoided the potential high rate of duty for out of quota shipments. To make sure it had engineered its process properly, it requested and received a ruling from Customs that its product was not subject to quota. Following the ruling, Heartland started importing sugar syrup. Apparently, the U.S. industry did not appreciate this plan and it asked CBP to reconsider. CBP obliged and eventually revoked the ruling. Seeking to prevent the revocation ruling from becoming final, Heartland went to the Court of International Trade for a declaratory judgment that the revocation was invalid. This happened under 28 U.S.C. 1581(h), which gives the CIT jurisdiction to review negative prospective customs rulings if the importer can show the ruling will cause irreparable harm. This

From the News

It is funny how market segments you might not think of as "industries" in and of themselves can sometimes turn into important players in the trade debate. Take, socks, for example. This article discusses the plight of a Canadian company that invested in a sock factory in Honduras in part to take advantage of access to the U.S. market afforded under the CAFTA-DR. Unfortunately for them, there is now a lobbying battle going on over whether socks should be subject to safeguards. Under the safeguard provisions of most free trade agreements, a party can put duties back onto a newly duty-free product if there has been a surge in duty-free imports causing harm to domestic producers. The point of safeguards is to serve as an escape valve for the unintended consequences of free trade agreements. The problem is that imposing safeguards has a negative impact on U.S. investments in Honduran sock factories and also on U.S. cotton growers who supply those factories. This is why tra

C-TPAT Validations in China

Here's news: Customs and Border Protection has finally secured the ability to have its people do C-TPAT validation in China. Until now, CBP has planned to rely on private third parties to conduct the validations. Now, CBP personnel will do it. I'm not sure that there is much practical significance to this but it does alleviate the concern about business proprietary information being in private hands. By the way, for Google purposes, C-TPAT is the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism.

Product Safety

Lately, I have lots of conversations about food and product safety. Everyone knows this is a big deal issue. Here is a recent example . It crosses all kinds of interests from child welfare, to public health, to international trade. The question I get is whether it is a Customs law issue. Clearly it is not one of the core legal areas of customs compliance. By that I meaning it does not impact classification, value, duty assessments, etc. But, to the extent you are trying to fill contracts or secure the release of merchandise, any hang up in Customs immediately becomes a "customs law issue." What you need to keep in mind is that Customs and Border Protection is the border enforcement arm for dozens of other government agencies including FDA and CPSC . An importation that is contrary to U.S. law is subject to seizure and forfeiture. That means you might lose your merchandise. There is also the possibility that your entry documents contain material false statement or omissions (


Yesterday, I had to visit a Halloween store to find the all important Ninja Ice Wolf costume. Yes, it is part of the culture of violence in America. Yes, it is far more materialistic than the happy hobo, zombie, or greaser costumes we used to cobble together as a kid. I've decided to lower the bar of my moral outrage and let my principles float. While there, I scoured the shelves looking for festive articles from a customs classification perspective. As far as I am concerned everything in that store is a festive article. Two things struck me as a I wandered among the decapitated ghouls , gravestones, and ghosts: Halloween is far more extreme than when I made the rounds of my neighborhood with my friends and a pillowcase for candy. The gore factor is very much ratcheted up. I guess this is the trickle-down of Hollywood special effects and makeup technology. But it is not just the realism, it is also the context. Look at this picture I took with my cell phone; it depicts a plastic h

Costa Rica Ratifies CAFTA-DR/ Peru Vote

Sunday's vote narrowly passed the CAFTA in Costa Rica. USTR Schwab had this to say on the occasion: The United States welcomes the outcome of the Costa Rican referendum on the free trade agreement that Costa Rica signed with the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the United States (CAFTA-DR). "We believe, and history confirms, that countries that open their markets have greater success in generating economic growth and development. We are pleased that Costa Rica will be joining the other CAFTA-DR countries in reaping the benefits of greater regional economic integration and market opportunities that the CAFTA-DR provides. "We look forward to working with the Government of Costa Rica as it completes the necessary steps to implement the agreement, so that the CAFTA-DR can enter into force for Costa Rica as soon as possible. Apparently, a Senate vote is scheduled for next week on the proposed U.S.-Peru FTA. The draft agreement has already be

And Now We Wait . . . .

Yesterday, Costa Ricans went to the polls to vote on a referendum on implementing the CAFTA. As we previously discussed, there have been massive demonstrations against the agreement. Let the counting begin. In the meantime, Exxon Mobile and Murphy have given notice of their intention to pursue NAFTA Chapter 11 arbitration against Canada. The issue is interesting because it relates to performance requirements and dovetails with litigation that is still pending in Canada. The basic issue is that the NAFTA originally allowed Canada to continue certain existing performance requirements. However, in 2004, the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board imposed certain research requirements or, in the alternative, payments into a fund. Exxon and Murphy claim the new requirements are illegal performance requirements and violate a number of NAFTA provisions including: Article 1106 on performance requirements Article 1108 which prevents the amendment of grandfathered measures to create

Chris Hayes Recants, I Guess

There is still no NAFTA Superhighway. But, Chris Hayes, who wrote a piece on the myth of the superhighway for The Nation, has apparently had second thoughts about the Security and Prosperity Partnership. Here is an exchange on the topic from his blog, which includes a link to his original article. I am not at all sure what to make of it. Even though it goes against my basic anti-conspiracy theory premise, I am putting it here in an effort to continue dialog (or possibly to fill space).

Quick Items

A Mayan statute was seized at O'Hare in Chicago. Here is the NPR story . Birds were recently seized from hunters after a bird flu outbreak in Canada. Bloggers are reporting major anti-CAFTA demonstrations in Costa Rica leading up to the referendum on Oct. 7. Some report marches of as many as 150,000 demonstrators. This Rueters report says 100,000.

Ford Update

The District Court in El Paso has issued a decision denying Ford's motion to dismiss the complaint against it for failing to produce NAFTA backup documents. [I'll post a link when I have one. Feel free to put a link in comments.] Customs and Border Protection had issued an administrative summons to Ford requesting the documents. Ford refused to produce them on the grounds that the documents are not (a)(1)(A) entry documents. Instead, they are backup documents the certifying exporter is required to keep. Ford even pointed to one of CBP's internal manuals, which expressly stated that the importer is not required to keep backup to the CO. I am in London right now and without certain resources I often employ when crafting blog posts. Chief among those is absolute sobriety and sleep. Still, here goes: In administrative law, there is a principle that an agency action should be reviewed based on its underlying actual rationale, not a post-hoc rationale dreamed up by agency counsel

When to Litigate a Penalty?

I'm not sure I know the answer to that. It does not seem like defendants are having much luck proving their case in Court. The latest big penalty comes in Inn Foods, Inc. The gist of this case is that one person's preliminary pricing may well be another person's double invoicing scheme. Also, there is a textbook example of piercing the corporate veil involved in the case. There is not much in the way of interesting or novel legal analysis to be had from the case. However, the fact that the result is a $7.5 million penalty for fraud is lesson enough. I have no idea what happened behind the scenes. But, one has to wonder whether there was some point at which this could have been settled for a lesser sum. It is entirely possible that the company involved could not absorb even a settlement amount and decided to bet the farm on litigation. Again I don't know and don't doubt that the lawyers laid out all the options. Sometimes, there are no good options. I am

Feeling Remiss

I am feeling bad about not posting in a while. Believe me when I say that. I would, however, feel worse about not getting work done for actual clients. I'm sure you understand. In the meantime, please read my most recent article for the NCBFAA CCSContact on-line magazine. This time, I made it to the front page. Enjoy.

More NAFTA Truck News

I did not want to become an advocate for Mexican trucking. Really. I just passed on the news that after 13 years, the NAFTA requirement to permit Mexican trucks on U.S. roads was about to be implemented. Then, I updated the post to note that a measure had been introduced in the Senate to block the trucks. Now comes the news that the Senate has voted to block appropriations necessary to support the pilot program. If signed into law, this would effectively stymie Mexico's efforts to provide international transportation services outside the border region. Jeez. I get that this is a populist issue that can be spun as pro-safety, pro-jobs, and pro-environment. Personally, I am pro all those things. I also get that NAFTA as a whole is not particularly popular at the moment. But, can we take a step back and look at this legally? The U.S. (via President George H. W. Bush) agreed to let the trucks in. Are we going to live up to our word? Maybe not. If not, there will be consequences. This

Keep On Truckin'

At the U.S.-Mexican border, there is usually a lot of shifting cargo from one truck to another. This is because Mexican truck carriers have been prohibited from operating more than 25 miles into the United States. That means that the Mexican carrier often turns the goods over to a domestic carrier who finishes the delivery. This has lead to the development of a lot of distribution center businesses along the southern border. Back in 1994, the U.S. agreed to eliminate this obvious choke point in the supply chain by giving Mexican trucks the right to make deliveries throughout the U.S. in the same way Canadian trucks do. It's right there is the agreement as part of Chapter 12 which states, at Article 1202 : Each Party shall accord to service providers of another Party treatment no less favorable than that it accords, in like circumstances, to its own service providers. The treatment accorded by a Party under [the above] paragraph means, with respect to a state or province, treatment

Larry Speaks (and Writes)

Chicago-area compliance people, I'll be speaking at the International Trade Club of Chicago on September 21. The title is "NAFTA and Other FTAs - Internal Controls for Compliance." More information and registration is available here . Also, I will be in London for the ABA Section of International Law Fall Meeting October 3-6. My job is to moderate a panel on outsourcing and trade laws. Here is the brochure blurb: Buying Trouble: Avoiding Purchasing and Outsourcing Traps in Customs, Trade and Export Laws Tracks: Customs/Trade, Corporate/Finance, Corporate Counsel Corporate outsourcing of manufacturing and services is growing rapidly. Many American and European companies have expanded their purchasing horizons to include unfamiliar suppliers and service providers in possibly unfamiliar countries. Companies new to international procurement, including companies outsourcing production and service functions previously done in-house, face a complicated array of legal questi

Quick Thoughts

On the eve of the Labor Day weekend, I post these odds and ends: 1. Fox News laughs off the North American Union (as it should). 2. This is one peeved Customs and Border Protection employee. 3. What the heck is this ? It looks like something Dr. Evil would dream up. "I shall call it: Aqua-Lung." I understand the theoretical benefits of smuggling with a submarine. I also understand that a fast boat would be useful for this endeavor. But why would someone want a semi-submarine? The thing is still visible and must be slow. Maybe the thinking was that it would be literally below the radar. I hope CBP publishes a picture of this thing out of the water. Have a good long weekend.

Cue the Fat Lady

You can keep your religious images on underpasses and tortillas . This is a picture of salvation. The power is on. The phone works. We have a DSL connection. Life is good. We finished cutting back the drywall and pulling out insulation this morning. In the middle of that, one sump pump gave up the ghost and had to be replaced. The required two trips to the hardware store. We made a third trip to buy a dehumidifier, which is now happily sucking moisture from the air. The A/C is running. I consider that a blessing although I am worried about whether the pump that moves the water from the condenser is still working. The last thing I want in the basement now is another puddle. It looks like the sofa is shot. Professional and amateur opinion is that it is irredeemable.

What Next?

Today was day five without power. But, things are progressing. When wer arrived home this morning, the electrician was there to re-connect the power lines to the back of the house. Granted, there is no electricity running through those lines, but at least they are connected. We also have phone service. I'm not sure about data. The plumber/HVAC guy came by to bleed the water out of the gas line and restart the water heater. He also inspected the furnaces. Luckily, they can be repaired. One needs a new set of electronics plus a motor. The other, just needs the electronics. The big issue continues to be moisture in the basement. All of the carpeting and padding is out and we scrubbed the floor down with diluted bleach. The real question is what might be lurking behind the walls . We have had a diversity of opinion on how to deal with that issue. Some have suggested just using heating fans and dehumidifiers. While that might be a reasonable approach, it is a non-starter (literally) unt

Here's to You

Here's to the lumber jacks who tote logs all day. Here's to the butcher who manhandles sides of beef. And, here's to the mob capo who has to move the deadest of dead weight. You are my heroes. I spent today cutting and pulling up soaked carpet. It was, I am certain, the hardest manual labor I have ever done. My muscles ache. I feel like I have the flu. I have more to do tomorrow. The paint is bubbling and literally falling down the wall. The doors are already warping. I need to figure out how to disinfect and prevent mold. I am told we need to cut down the dry wall at least part way up the wall. Usually, I keep references to family to a minimum. But, I need to say my wife toted wet dead weight today as well as I did. Also thanks to all four grandparents for entertaining Jr. My brother is coming to help tomorrow. This is going to sound studip, but I am half comatose, so what the hell. Usually, I am not shy about spending money to solve a problem. I have tried


The problem with blogs like this one is that it crosses back and forth between personal and professional. That means my family is bored to tears reading about the finer points of HS classification. Customs compliance professionals, on the other hand are left wondering "who is this guy and why do I care about the spider in his basement or his theories on Clifford the Big Red Dog?" It's a risk I take and I hope the professionals will continue to indulge me with the promise that I will get back on topic soon. The Great Chicago Hurricane of 2007 brought 70 MPH winds through my neighborhood. More than four inches of rain fell in only an hour or so. This follows a solid month of rain, so the ground was saturated the water had nowhere to run, except into my basement. For those of you not familiar with the midwest, it is flat here. Water accumaltes under foundations. To avoid basements that resemble turtle habitats, we have sump pumps. These pumps are great so long as you have po

Water Logged

Today was a crazy weather day. At three o'clock it was black as midnight with rain pouring down in buckets. In the suburbs, tornado sirens sounded and people headed to shelter. My train home was delayed. Think about that. How much rain does it take to delay a train--by 50 minutes? There was high water on the road home. I was only confident I would make it when I followed a Civic through the water. When I got home, I found the power and phone out and toys, carpet, and the botton six inches of a not inexpensive sofa floating in my basement. I am at a loss. I don't know where to start. I put on sailing foul-weather boots and moved dry stuff to higher ground. Now I am waiting for a plumber at close to midnight. It is going to be a long weekend.

Ford Wins Another Round

This almost qualifies as breaking news: Yesterday, the CAFC reversed most of the CIT's decision in one of the Ford penalty cases. This one involved Ford's mishandled application of a foreign trade zone to parts for cars and trucks. Ford mistakenly treated all the parts as if they were for cars and paid duties on the merchandise in its condition as withdrawn from the zone for entry. Unfortunately, Ford only applied the rate for cars (2.6% at the time) not the rate for trucks, which was 25%. Consequently, Ford allegedly underpaid duties to the tune of $5.3 million. Ford told the Customs Service about the error but was, nevertheless, the subject of a fraud investigation that lasted almost four years. During that time, apparently very little investigating actually happened. Customs extended liquidation of the relevant entries and finally liquidated them almost four years after the date of the last entry. Ford protested the liquidations arguing that the entries had liquidate


A quick note of thanks to those of you who sent me the CBP ruling I requested. Several of you were nice enough to help out. Thanks also to those who publicly and privately expressed concern for either my physical or mental condition following my car vs. bike altercation. I'm fine. Lastly, in lieu of a new post, I point you to a new column in the online journal of the NCBFAA Educational Institute called CCSContact . Scroll down to page 3 to find the article. I'll blog that NAFTA ruling shortly.

NAFTA Superhighway Deconstruction

The alleged plot to merge the U.S., Canada, and Mexico into an EU-style union is a worrisome sideshow in the real discussion of trade policy. The mythical so-called NAFTA Superhighway is a critical step in the plot. The latest issue of The Nation includes a terrific story on the popular pull of this urban legend. It is worth a read. The larger conspiracy to be investigated is why the author, Christopher Hayes, did not bother to cite my own groundbreaking work on this topic.

Rulings Review

Customs and Border Protection issued a few interesting rulings recently. Here is a quick summary of two. H007168 (Aug. 2, 2007) When a sale occurs before importation, when does the seller retain enough of an interest to act as importer of record? Good question. The statute requires that the importer of record be the owner or purchaser of the merchandise (we're not talking about brokers and agents here). 19 USC 1484. Customs, in a suprisingly business-friendly exercise of discretion, has defined "owner" as including someone who retains a "financial interest" in the merchandise. In this case, the seller retained a security interest in the merchandise inteneded to make sure it eventually gets paid. According to this ruling, that was sufficient to make it an "owner" with the right to make entry. W563475 (Nov. 3, 2006) Calling Tom Cruise! The Church of Scientology imported some electrical devices known as " E-meters " used to " audit " C

New Service, No Charge

One of my other side gigs is as a technology writer for the Chicago Bar Association. This month, I reviewed a couple web tools including the cool Rollyo search site . This service lets you create custom search engines based on up to 25 sites you think are authoritative. Using it, I created the Customs Law "searchroll." You can see the search box below on the right. Give it a try. You can also link to the searchroll here ( ).

Update: It's Bad Karma

Remember that I had a flat on the way into work today? It got worse. On the way home, the back tire went flat again . I rode the bike standing with my weight forward from North Avenue to Addison where there is a little repair shop on the bike path. We confirmed that my tire has a hole in it big enough to see the tube when inflated. This meant that there was a decent chance I would flat again before I made it home. So, I bought an another tube and another CO2 cartridge and went on my way. So far, so good. Then I was hit by a car. Obviously, I am OK. I think that makes me some sort of official member of the urban biking club. What happened was simple and all too common. I was on Lawndale in Evanston where almost all of the intersections are 4-way stops. Almost all. As I approached an intersection, I saw a silver Toyota approaching and did what I always do at 4-way stops: I looked at the driver, slowed, and proceeded through the intersection confident he would stop. He didn'

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

Yesterday, I did some shopping at the bike shop. I needed new tubes because I got a flat last week and was down to one backup. I also needed new tire levers, additional CO2 cartridges for my inflater, and new water bottles. My favorite clear 24 oz bottles seem to have a science experiment growing on their insides. I also picked up a new pair of Lake MX85 shoes while I was there. Yes, I know riding on streets in mountain bike shoes violates some cosmic rule of cycling fashion , but I can walk in them easily and I did not need to change my pedals to match a new roadie cleat. This morning on the ride in to work, I got a flat at Granville and Broadway. Lucky for me, I have new tire levers, a fresh tube, and CO2 cartridge. It took me 10 minutes to change the tire, re-inflate and be on my way; dirty hands and all. This, of course, raises a question. Is it good karma that I went to the store the night before I needed the very supplies I was buying? Or, did I curse myself be being pre