Showing posts from March, 2008

Does CBP Have A PR Problem?

Dateline Mar. 30, 2008, Chicago Today, the above cartoon by Dan Piraro appeared in Parade Magazine, which is shoved into the Chicago Tribune in the company of the Best Buy and Circuit City ad supplements. For reasons that escape me and likely make Parade execs very happy, I always leaf through it but rarely read anything in it. I suspect it has much to do with my personal love-hate for Marilyn Vos Savant . As an aside, her explication of the three-door-game-show problem is worthy of reading although not to the standard of The Straight Dope on jets on treadmills . So, what does this cartoon say about the public perception of Customs & Border Protection? Is the agency perceived as corrupt? Or, is it merely considered annoying and this shows that in the extreme? Note how everything from the luggage is set out neatly. Is the inspector and obsessive-compulsive bureaucrat? Plus, he's armed. Is there an implied threat here? What about the art itself? Note the very high-quality rend

U.S. and E.C. Joint Roadmap on Security

This press release from Customs and Border Protection states that CBP and the European Commission's Tax and Customs Union Directorate have adopted a joint " roadmap " to mutual recognition of trade partnership programs. The ultimate goal is to establish mutual recognition of the U.S. Customs and Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C- TPAT ) and the European Authorized Economic Operator ( AEO ) programs. Once mutual recognition is established, C- TPAT and AEO members will be able to participate in the corresponding other program and, one assumes, reap the benefits thereof. According to the plan, upcoming steps include: Establishing guidelines on information exchanges Joint verifications C- TPAT for exporters Exchanging best practices

Supreme Court Considers Customs Declarations

It is pretty rare for customs-related issues to come before the Supreme Court. The last cases to do so dealt with fundamental questions of administrative law and the degree to which the Courts had to defer to Customs' legal interpretations. Those cases were Haggar in 2000 and Meade in 2001. Consequently, I'll always take note when something involving customs gets to the Supreme Court. That happened this week, although in the context of a terrorism case. The case involves the 1999 plot to attack LAX airport. You may remember that the would-be terrorist was stopped by the then Customs Service (now Customs and Border Protection) when he drove in from Canada in a car full of explosives. One charge against the defendant was carrying an explosive in the commission of a felony. The underlying felony in this case was lying to Customs when making the customs declaration at the time of entry. [Side note: keep that in mind the next time you load up on jewelry or watches while on a

Is Mickey Raising a Stink?

I saw this story earlier in the week and decided against posting it. But, it keeps showing up so I may as well jump on the band wagon. Orlando stinks. According to Customs and Border Protection, the Orlando airport stinks from dead rats. Apparently, this is not an "Oh, yuck" kind of stink. Rather, the stench has caused CBP personnel and passengers to get sick. Thankfully, the building has been cleaned. Hmmm, rats in the Orlando airport. What could cause that? An obvious problem is that airports are giant food courts and there must be plenty of rat-friendly garbage around. Plus, Orlando is a destination for kids, meaning that more food is likely dropped on the ground than one would normally expect. But, I think there is something more important happening here. This is--after all--an airport. What if Orlando is a destination for rats? Is it possible that the rats are sneaking onto flights from all over the world with the express intention of getting to Orlando? This m

From the Blogosphere

A few worthy posts from other blogs: An ode to smuggled absinthe from The Obscurarium . I would not take the comment that Customs and Border Protection does not enforce the ban on absinthe as legal advice. This self-described Minnesota Diva is shocked by CBP border searches of laptops. The more interesting points come in the anonymous comment that purports to be from a CBP inspector. There are generally two sides to every story and the inspector's side is worth considering. While I have very serious concerns about the scope of border searches of personal electronic data, I do accept that the point of the searches is for the public good.

Literature=Moral Turpitude

Customs and Border Protection in Newark detained British author Sebastian Horsley for eight hours before telling him that he was not welcome in the U.S. under the visa waiver program. The reason for this determination is that Horsely purports to be a drug user who has employed the services of prostitutes and also has worked as an "escort." According to the U.S., this amounts to moral turpitude and makes him inadmissible without a visa. Read the New York Times story on Horsley's blog . Among the interesting questions this raises is who in CBP gets to decide what constitutes a moral failing? Is it based on community standards or do we know moral turpitude when we see it? A somewhat more interesting question is what happens to Horsley and to CBP if it turns out that his literary persona is, in fact, more fiction than fact? Although the quotes in the article are coy in an Oscar Wilde sort of way, the clear implication is that his memoir is embellished. Consequently, Horsley

Notes from the Road

Not a good day for United Airlines. We are experiencing the dreaded mechanical delay here in San Diego. This, of course, leaves me with time to do a quick blog update. In the category of not-terribly-relevant is the fact that Arthur C. Clarke has passed away. Clarke is the genius who worked out how to use satellites for communication purposes and who wrote such classic sci-fi books as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Childhood's End, and Rendezvous With Rama. News here . Crap Shoot at the Border: Here is a sad story about a gambler. He is a Mexican national living illegally in the U.S. who decided to go to a Canadian casino. While there, he lost $500. When he tried to cross back into the U.S. without proof of citizenship, he was arrested and now awaits deportation to Mexico. Thereby likely losing a lot more. Canadian NDP and Idaho Down on NAFTA: This report indicates that the leftist New Democratic Party of Canada would like to work with U.S. Democrats to renegotiate NAFTA with an emphasi

On Voice Mail, Massagers, and Mootness

One thing I'll say for Customs & Border Protection is that the people making up the agency tend to be pretty responsive to voice mail. That makes me wonder why they need a $20 million overhaul of their voice mail system. Of course, voice mail is important and should be kept up to modern standards. Foot massagers, on the other hand, are a luxury item. In the case of one foot massager stopped by CBP in Memphis, a $45,000 luxury. According to this story , someone tucked that much cash inside a Foot Pleaser Ultra Deep Kneading Foot Massager. Customs found it when they x-rayed the cargo. On to something of more moment: The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has vacated and remanded Gerdau Ameristeel to the Court of International Trade. Normally, I don't cover trade cases here. But, it has been quiet and this is interesting. Gerdau was originally dismissed from the CIT because liquidation of the entries had rendered the appeal from the sixth antidumping review moot. But,

NAFTA-gate Expands

Here are a couple substantive items. First, what is rapidly becoming known as NAFTA-gate is spreading. Now there are questions about whether Hillary Clinton's people had contact with Canada to reassure that Country about her commitment to NAFTA. At the same time, it appears that Canada does not think that renegotiating is completely out of the question. What, exactly, would be on the table is the question. For example, would Canada leverage its status as an energy exporter to the U.S? Would the U.S. raise the topic of the exemptions for cultural industries? Of course, as a practical matter, Canada is not the "problem." People who complain about NAFTA tend to complain about Mexico and the perceived lack of labor and environmental enforcement. Will Mexico accept a NAFTA with actual labor and environmental standards built into it and subject to dispute resolution? That's a big question. Here are some articles on the topic: US Election Clinton campaign denies NAFTA report

In Deep Yogurt

I’m traveling and too much time spent in airports makes the odd profound. With that in mind, I want to know whether anyone but me has noticed that America is being invaded by granola-topped yogurt parfaits . I shudder at the larger implications of this for national security, let alone the health of the average American. First, they are often monstrously large. Second, they are not clearly marked as low fat or unsweetened, so it is likely that they are neither. I think they are the harbinger of an alien invasion force. Kind of like the flying fried egg that killed Captain Kirk’s brother. I’m not kidding about this. Walk around an airport and look at the food offerings. Everyone has them. As I type this, I am looking at Cibo Express in LaGuardia—Yogurt Parfaits. The Au Bon Pan has giant cups of plain and berry yogurt paired with little cups of granola—do it yourself parfaits. McDonalds has their own, which is a reasonable size but often half-frozen. Earlier this week, I had on