Showing posts from August, 2007

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

Larry in the News

Yesterday, I was interviewed by the Daily Herald about the inter-agency working group on product safety. The impetus for this was a visit to Chicago's O'Hare international mail facility by HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt. You can read the story here . By the way, how is it that I can only generate a single comment to the last post? I know (generally) who reads this blog. I know that there are lots of customs lawyers, business people, and government folks visiting. Throw me a bone people! It takes some effort on my part to inform and entertain you. Only one of you was inspired enough by the stuffed animal/radio image to know I was thinking that the Whirlpool case should have discussed composite goods. Thanks to that anonymous comment poster for covering for me. Keep it up and the rest of you will get nothing but links to You Tube videos of this guy .

Back Next Week

For those of you who check regularly, I'll be gone at least until Wednesday. Drop a comment if you see anything of customs-related interest. If anyone want to comment on the decision in the Whirlpool case , have at it. Here's a hint . Discuss amongst yourselves. Wow, I think I just outsourced my blog.

ICE Raids for Wii, PS2, and XBox Mods

According to press reports , Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents today conducted raids in 16 states looking for mod chips for video game consoles. These chips let users play pirated video games and violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 . This is a serious issue that costs industry lots of money from pirated software. Often, the pirates are part of larger criminal enterprises. So, efforts to enforce these laws are important. But, just imagine the poor awkward teenager in the basement with his pizza and Jolt cola trying to explain to his angry parents why ICE agents just knocked down the door. He is so grounded.