Saturday, December 29, 2012

Corporate taxation for the layman, and why we need a "territorial" system


There has been a great deal of discussion about adopting a "territorial" corporate tax system, much of it jaw-droppingly ignorant. It seemed to us that it would be much in order to explain corporate taxation for the layman interested in the policy debate.

First, a couple of warnings. The topic is infinitely complicated, so we will generalize in ways that will irritate tax and accounting professionals, and probably get too basic for most people who took business classes in college. We are, however, undeterred!

The basics

There are many ways to organize a business, including as a proprietorship, a partnership, or a limited liability company. We do not tax any of these structures separately -- the owners pay personal income tax on their share of the business's profits -- but each has disadvantages that drive most larger businesses to become corporations. We tax most corporations as separate entities. (Many small businesses in the United States organize as "S" corporations, which are "pass through" entities like partnerships, which is why people who favor low personal income taxes talk about the impact of high rates on small businesses, but that controversy is not the subject of this post.)

In general, corporations in the United States pay federal corporate tax at the rate of 35%. They also pay state corporate tax at varying rates. This is all fairly straightforward for individual American corporations with no foreign subsidiaries.

Of course, most larger American corporations own and control other corporations, often because they wish to do business in a foreign country and it is advantageous or even required to form a local corporation to do so. For our purposes, let's call the top corporation (the one you would buy shares of stock in if you were to invest) the "ultimate parent," American subsidiaries "domestic subsidiaries," and non-American subsidiaries "foreign subsidiaries."

Of course, the foreign subsidiaries often earn profits in foreign countries which levy corporate tax on those profits. These rates can vary enormously, but they are almost all lower than the US federal rate, and lower still than the blended federal-state rate.

A bit about "headline" tax rates and the difference between tax and accounting

In the American system, we keep separate books for accounting (financial reporting) and tax purposes. This is because financial reporting and tax have different purposes. The purpose of financial reporting is to reflect the financial results and position of the corporation as fairly as possible. "Profit" for financial reporting purposes, however, may have little to do with profit for tax purposes, in part because there are provisions in the tax code intended to change behavior. So, for example, the Congress might decree that a machine expected to last 10 years can be "depreciated" (expensed) over three years for tax purposes so that businesses can get larger and faster tax deductions and will therefore have an incentive to buy machines more quickly. We still require that the machine be depreciated over 10 years for financial reporting purposes, because we want accounting to be true to the underlying economics regardless of the machinations of Congress.

The result is that "reported" and "cash" tax rates are often different for entirely legitimate reasons, usually required by law. Journalists, even such experts as the editors of the New York Times, rarely understand this difference or deliberately obscure it to rally their readers to some policy view. (If you are a confused financial journalist, here is a somewhat more involved summary of the differences between "book" and tax income under American law.)

rest at

The Top Ten Tax Cases of 2012


Thursday, December 27, 2012

sports socialism: The Bills Blackmailed New York Taxpayers Into Covering 84 Percent Of Stadium Renovations


You might have missed this in the pre-holiday news dump, which it was specifically timed for—it's a good idea to downplay the implications of a story like this. An agreement was announced in a "hastily called news conference" to keep the Bills in Buffalo (actually Orchard Park) through at least 2020. But the real story is in the details: the Bills have been allowed to pick up just 16 percent of the costs to keep them in town. If you've ever had the slightest curiosity as to how sweetheart a deal an NFL team can possibly get, the full agreement can be read below.

It's going to cost $271 million for upgrades to Ralph Wilson Stadium and 10 years of running the place on gameday. The Bills will pay just $44 million of that. Erie County will cover $103 million, while the state of New York is on the hook for $123 million. If that turns out to be not cushy enough, the Bills can buy their way out of the lease after year seven. We and others have railed against the outrage of public financing for stadiums for years, but it's still shocking to see in 2012 a textbook case of a community held for ransom, forced to give in to every last demand of a franchise threatening to move.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

.@Starbucks Why r u teaming up with anti-Social Security group & forcing your employees to lobby for them?


With six days to go before January 1st and both Clinton tax rates and the spending sequester takes effect, some in Washington are desperate to cut a deal, even if it's a bad deal that involves painful cuts to Social Security benefits.

CNN reports that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has written a letter to his chain's 120 stores in the Washington, D.C. area to ask employees there to write "Come Together" on coffee cups on Thursday and Friday.

"Rather than be bystanders, you and your customers have an opportunity — and I believe we all have a responsibility — to send our elected officials a respectful but potent message, urging them to come together to find common ground," Schultz wrote in his letter to the stores. He also apparently cited Fix The Debt, the powerful corporate front group that has been pushing for an agreement to cut Social Security benefits and lower corporate tax rates for months.

In a statement to CNN, the company stressed that these messages are voluntary.

But by even asking employees to voluntarily influence lawmakers to reach an agreement, Schultz is inappropriately pressuring them to take a political stand they may not agree with. For example, some of these employees may benefit from veterans or Social Security benefits that are at risk of being cut in a bad deal.

Starbucks employees should be able to decide for themselves what politics they endorse and should not be asked to write these messages as a part of their employment.

UPDATE: Read the full letter from Schultz here. It claims, without evidence, that the United States is experiencing a debt "crisis." Schultz also pivots from sympathy for the Sandy Hook massacre to the need to come together to address this so-called "crisis."

UPDATE II: I talked to a Starbucks employee in the D.C. area. This is what they had to say about being asked to take part in this campaign:

[It's] absolutely stupid. I don't get paid nearly enough to write that on all the cups. It's like I'm being punished in elementary school, except instead of a chalkboard, I have hundreds of cups. The message is Starbucks doesn't care about their "partners." They will be forced to do more work that is necessary or good, and not compensate them for it, and try to put out their message even if the "partner" doesn't agree with it. … Compromise would get something done, but it'll leave a [bad] deal for the working poor and the middle class.

Koch Bros cash drives Michigan right to work bill...also got MI governor elected. Get money out of politics #p2 #tcot @Koch_Industries


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Zero Dark Thirty does not present torture as a silver bullet that led to bin Laden; it presents torture as the ignorant alternative (


One scene features a bloodied, disoriented and humiliated man strapped to a wall with his pants around his ankles. A second scene depicts the same man having liquid forcibly poured down his throat; later, he's shoved into a box that could barely hold your stereo. And all of this takes place in the first 45 minutes or so of Zero Dark Thirty, the new movie about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. It's enough to make you wretch. It's arguably the best and most important part of the movie.

Kathryn Bigelow's new film about the decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden begins with an unsparing, nauseating and frighteningly realistic look at how the CIA tortured many people and reaped very little intelligence. Never before has a movie grappled with post-9/11 torture the way Zero Dark Thirty does. The torture on display in the film occurs at the intersection of ignorance and brutality, while the vast, vast majority of the intelligence work that actually does lead to bin Laden's downfall occurs after the torture has ended.

You wouldn't know this from the avalanche of commentary greeting the film. Bigelow is being presented as a torture apologist, and it's a bum rap. David Edelstein of New York says her movie borders on the "morally reprehensible" for presenting "a case for the efficacy of torture." The New York Times' Frank Bruni suspects that Dick Cheney will give the film two thumbs up. Bruni is probably right, since defenders of torture have been known to latch onto any evidence they suspect will vindicate them as American heroes. But that's not Zero Dark Thirty.

Bigelow instead presents a graphic depiction of what declassified CIA documents indicate the torture program really was. (A caveat: The CIA has actively blocked disclosure into that program, going so far as to destroy video recordings of it.) The first detainee we meet, in 2003, is a bruised and mentally unstable man forced to stay awake by having his arms strapped to thick ropes suspended from the walls of his undisclosed torture chamber. Or, in the bureaucratic language of former Justice Department official Steven Bradbury: "The primary method of sleep deprivation involves the use of shackling to keep the detainee awake."

Later, the detainee — apparently Amar al-Baluchi, nephew of 9/11 conspirator Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, or based on him — is shown to be kept hooded in that position, in a dark room while deafening music blasts. (Specifically, "Pavlov's Dogs" by cerebral early-'90s New York hardcore band Rorschach.) He is interrupted by his captor, CIA agent "Dan," who informs him: "When you lie to me, I hurt you" and that "partial information" will be treated as a lie. The detainee is stripped from the waist down to be humiliated in front of a woman CIA agent — the film's protagonist, Maya; more on her in a second — before being stuffed into a wooden box the size of a child's dresser. That would be the "confinement box," one of the earliest torture techniques the CIA used on an al-Qaida detainee known as Abu Zubaydah. (The agency wanted to put insects in it, to heighten Abu Zubaydah's fear levels.)

The film goes on like this for about 45 brutal minutes. "Uncooperative" detainees are held down by large men and doused through a towel with water until they spew it up. (There's no "boarding" in this "waterboarding.) Helpless detainees are shown with rheumy eyes, desperate for the torture to stop, while their captors promise them nourishment and keep their promises by forcing Ensure down their throats through a funnel. Amar al-Baluchi, mocked for defecating on himself, is stripped and forced to wear a dog collar while Dan rides him, to alert the detainee to his helplessness.

These are not "enhanced interrogation techniques," as apologists for the abuse have called it. There is little interrogation presented in Zero Dark Thirty. There is a shouted question, followed by brutality. At one point, "Maya," a stand-in for the dedicated CIA agents who actually succeeded at hunting bin Laden, points out that one abused detainee couldn't possibly have the information the agents are demanding of him. The closest the movie comes to presenting a case for the utility of torture is by presenting the name of a key bin Laden courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, as resulting from an interrogation not shown on screen. But — spoiler alert — the CIA ultimately comes to learn that it misunderstood the context of who that courier was and what he actually looked like. All that happens over five years after the torture program initiated. Meanwhile, the real intelligence work begins when a CIA agent bribes a Kuwaiti with a yellow Lamborghini for the phone number of the courier's mother, and through extensive surveillance, like a police procedural, the manhunt rolls to its climax. If this is the case for the utility of torture, it's a weak case — nested within a strong case for the inhumanity of it.

Nor does Bigelow let the CIA off the hook for the torture. "You agency people are sick," a special operator tells Dan. Dan, the chief torturer of the movie, is shown as not only a sadist but a careerist. "You don't want to be the last one holding the dog collar when the oversight committee comes," he tells Maya before decamping to Washington. Other CIA bureaucrats are shown sneering at the idea of canceling the torture program — more fearful of congressional accountability than of losing bin Laden. Maya is more of a cipher: she is shown coming close to puking when observing the torture. But she also doesn't object to it — "This is not a normal prison. You choose how you will be treated," she tells a detainee — and Maya is the hero of the film.

"It's a movie, not a documentary," screenwriter Mark Boal told The New Yorker. "We're trying to make the point that waterboarding and other harsh tactics were part of the C.I.A. program." That quote has electrified the internet as a statement of intent to gussy up the importance of torture. But the fact is torture was part of the CIA's post-9/11 agenda: dispassionate journalists like Mark Bowden presents it as such in his excellent recent book.

Zero Dark Thirty does not present torture as a silver bullet that led to bin Laden; it presents torture as the ignorant alternative to that silver bullet. Were a documentarian making the film, there would surelybe less torture in the movie: CNN's Peter Bergen considered an early cut of those scenes overwroughtin their gruesomeness and reminds that senators who have investigated the CIA torture program reject the idea that torture led to bin Laden.

At the same time, the film makes viewers come to grips with what Dick Cheney euphemistically called the "dark side" of post-9/11 counterterrorism. Meanwhile, former Bush administration aide Philip Zelikow, who termed the torture a "war crime" in a recent Danger Room interview, will probably find the movie more amenable than Cheney will. What endures on the screen are scenes that can make a viewer ashamed to be American, in the context of a movie whose ending scene makes viewers very, very proud to be American.

Analysis: GOP policies led to fiscal cliff blowup (YAHOO)


WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans seem shocked by their party's meltdown on the so-called fiscal cliff. They shouldn't be.

The uncompromising conservatives who blocked Speaker John Boehner's tax bill were merely sticking to policies that Boehner and nearly all other GOP leaders have pushed, without reservation, for years: It's always wrong to raise tax rates on anyone, no matter how rich. The nation's big deficit is entirely "a spending problem, not a revenue problem." And in any deficit-reduction plan, spending cuts must overwhelm new revenues, by 10-to-1 if not more.

To be surprised by Boehner's failure is to assume one of two things. Either House conservatives didn't really believe their party's bedrock principles; or they would compromise after seeing President Barack Obama win re-election on a deficit-reduction plan that called for higher taxes on the wealthy.

Neither was true. And now the Republican Party is reeling from unbending fealty to its core principles.

Congress' structure makes compromise essential, and the nation once lionized the 19th century senator and congressman Henry Clay as "the Great Compromiser." But the modern Republican Party is heavily energized by the tea party movement, which sees compromise as a triumph of flabby pragmatism over courageous conviction.

All these threads weaved themselves into a knot late Thursday that strangled Boehner's bid to position his party behind a tiny concession on tax hikes. Whereas Obama campaigned to raise tax rates on couples making more than $250,000 — a threshold he offered to raise in postelection negotiations — Boehner asked his House Republican colleagues to accept higher rates only on millionaires.

When an undisclosed number refused, Boehner had to abruptly send Congress home for the holidays and face reporters asking if he will lose his speakership.

"We had a number of our members who just really didn't want to be perceived as having raised taxes," even on millionaires, Boehner explained Friday.

And with good reason, many would say. The Republican establishment has long embraced activist Grover Norquist's drive to persuade nearly every GOP lawmaker to pledge never to raise taxes on anyone, no matter how big the gap between federal revenue and spending.

Even though conservative heroes such as President Ronald Reagan raised taxes at times, the anti-tax pledge became the Republican Party's "brand," as Norquist often said.

Norquist on Wednesday said Boehner's proposed tax on millionaires would not technically violate the pledge. But it was too late, or too little, for many House Republicans.

"We made a pledge not to let taxes go up," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas. Barton entered Congress 24 years before the tea party's birth, proof that unyielding tax aversion runs deep.

Such intransigence in the face of a narrowly divided U.S. electorate dismays Republicans who say compromise can be vital to a party's survival.

The collapse of Boehner's tax effort "weakens the entire Republican Party," said Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, who is retiring after 18 years.

"It's the continuing dumbing down of the Republican Party," he said, "and we are going to be seen more and more as a bunch of extremists that can't even get a majority of our own people to support policies that we're putting forward. If you're not a governing majority, you're not going to be a majority very long."

Republican consultant and writer Craig Shirley told The Washington Post: "The national GOP is now simply a collection of warring tribal factions."

Republicans point to their success in maintaining control of the House, now assured for 16 of 20 years since 1994.

It's also true, however, that Democrats this year won more House votes nationwide than Republicans did. And Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.

For some time, signs have indicated the Republican Party is shifting away from majority public opinion on key issues. They include taxes and spending.

Despite Republican leaders' insistence that the deficit be tackled with spending cuts alone, and no new taxes, a recent Pew Research Center poll found a different public view. The vast majority of Americans say the deficit should be addressed with a mix of tax increases and spending cuts in major programs.

Few prominent Republicans protested when Mitt Romney, the eventual presidential nominee, joined his primary opponents in saying he would reject a deficit-reduction plan even if it raised $1 in new revenue for every $10 in spending cuts. Some conservative writers said the GOP should exult in so lop-sided a deal.

But Romney's acquiescence contributed to the view that modern Republican leaders are well to the right of their predecessors, not to mention most American voters. In June, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and Reagan would have a hard time being nominated by today's Republican activists.

Scores, if not hundreds, of House members focus more intensely on their home district's politics than on their national party's reputation. Many Republicans from staunchly conservative districts fear a primary election challenge from someone to their right.

Obama said this week he realizes that many House Republicans "come from districts that I lost. And so sometimes they may not see an incentive in cooperating with me, in part because they're more concerned about challenges from a tea party candidate, or challenges from the right."

Obama has his own problems with unbending liberals who want to protect Social Security, Medicare and other social programs from virtually any cuts. Obama's positions have varied, but he clearly signaled in his 2011 "grand bargain" talks with Boehner that he was willing to slow those programs' growth as part of a deficit-reduction, tax-increase deal.

It's still possible that Obama, Boehner and Congress can reach a deal to avert the "fiscal cliff" before the Jan. 1 deadline. For now, however, the House Republicans' internal warfare makes it easier for opponents to paint them as extremists, unworthy of serious negotiations.

"The president and Congress have no obligation to radical Republicans who have no ground to stand on," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

It's doubtful that any congressional Republicans see themselves as radicals. Polls nonetheless show that key GOP policies are drifting from mainstream American sentiment. The Republican establishment has yet to do much about it.


EDITOR'S NOTE — Charles Babington covers Congress and politics for The Associated Press. Associated Press writer Stephen Ohlemacher contributed to this report.

An AP News Analysis

Koch threatens politicians with attack ads if they support Sandy victims (


Billionaire David Koch's prime political organization, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), having failed in its $125 million quest to oust President Barack Obama, is now aiming at a slightly less sophisticated political target: victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Hurricane Sandy was the second most costly in American history, leaving 100 lives lost, over $50 billion in devastation, and tens of thousands of damaged or destroyed homes. Legislative efforts to help those who survived Hurricane Sandy's wrath will reach a major stumbling block.
Earlier this week, AFP, which is chaired by Koch and believed to be financed by several other plutocrats from the New York City region, released a letter warning members of Congress not to vote for the proposed federal aid package for victims of the storm that swept New Jersey, New York City, and much of the surrounding area in October. An announcement on the group's website says that the vote next week for the Sandy aid package will be a "key vote" -- meaning Senators who support sending money for reconstruction could face an avalanche of attack ads in their next election. Already, opposition to the bill is growing, although it passed one procedural hurdle last night.

There is some legitimate criticism with aspects of the legislation, including the fact that some of the money will go to non-Sandy related reconstruction efforts in disaster areas. For AFP, however, the whole bill must die and victims of the storm deserve no help from the government.
Koch's top deputy in New Jersey, a surly gentleman named Steve Lonegan, who heads the local AFP state chapter, called the aid package a "disgrace." "This is not a federal government responsibility," Lonegan told reporters. "We need to suck it up and be responsible for taking care of ourselves."
It seems particularly cruel that the Koch political machine would use its vast network of paid activists and professional operatives to kill this bill. For one thing, this is David Koch's community. From his Upper East Side apartment, Koch lives only a subway ride away from the devastation in Red Hook. Notably, Koch's group gave away free gasoline during the election in a wide-scale anti-Obama stunt, yet had nothing to give to the victims of the storm. Now, Koch, one of the richest men in the world, is actually trying to take something away from them.
There's another wrinkle to this political assault on the aid request that makes it even more heartless. (No, it's not the rather arbitrary decision to target this piece of federal funding over others. Recently, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta identified $74 billion in unnecessary military spending, but AFP has not demanded that the government immediately axe these funds.)
The other tragedy of Koch's decision to target Sandy aid is that his company is the reason we will increasingly face extreme weather events like hurricanes, flash floods, droughts, and fierce storms. The Koch brothers, David and Charles, sit atop one of the world's largest privately held conglomerates. Koch Industries is a sprawling company with interests in commodity speculation, timber, oil refining, ethanol production, chemicals, pipelines, consumer products, and fertilizer, among others. The Koch empire, by one estimate, has an annual carbon footprint of 100 million tons.
Not only does Koch's business contribute to climate change through massive carbon emissions, as Greenpeace reported, Koch is the largest financier of climate denial political organizations and media groups. (As an aside, unlike AFP, Greenpeace ignored partisan politics and sent many of its workers to Queens to assist with relief efforts.)
Steve Lonegan, the AFP New Jersey staffer now crusading against federal support to his disaster-stricken state, led the effort to persuade Gov. Chris Christie to reject a New England regional system to reduce carbon emissions. In a self-discrediting opinion column for the Times of Trenton last year, Lonegan mocked the overwhelming scientific data that projects global warming will lead to increased hurricanes (emphasis added):
It's disturbing enough to realize the leading supporters of this reckless, irresponsible [cap and trade] scheme not only advance their argument under the banner of wild-eyed claims about increased rates for hurricanes and tornadoes due to global warming, for which there is no valid scientific proof — such increased rates have occurred regularly over the centuries.
As I've extensively written, Koch's political machine has largely used "conservative" and populist political efforts to advance their bottom line. Koch Industries makes a fortune by avoiding having to repay society for contributing millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Before AFP fought efforts to curb carbon emissions, the group (then known as Citizens for a Sound Economy) blasted efforts to curb acid rain and asthma-causing dust from factories, using much of the same rhetoric and hard-edge tactics. They lost those battles; but in recent years, they've won major policy debates, especially on climate change.
In this instance, there's no payout to Koch Industries. Instead, it appears the fight over the Sandy relief money is yet another proxy battle with President Obama and his party. If the bill is significantly sliced apart, or even blocked, Democrats will have a difficult time finding the funds to pay for other programs over the course of next year.
Regardless of the politics though, it's just kind of sad that a man worth $31 billion would spend his money this way.

@NRA Letter of Resignation Sent By Bush to Rifle Association


Following is the letter of resignation sent last week by former President George Bush to the National Rifle Association: May 3, 1995

Dear Mr. Washington,

I was outraged when, even in the wake of the Oklahoma City tragedy, Mr. Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of N.R.A., defended his attack on federal agents as "jack-booted thugs." To attack Secret Service agents or A.T.F. people or any government law enforcement people as "wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms" wanting to "attack law abiding citizens" is a vicious slander on good people.

Al Whicher, who served on my [ United States Secret Service ] detail when I was Vice President and President, was killed in Oklahoma City. He was no Nazi. He was a kind man, a loving parent, a man dedicated to serving his country -- and serve it well he did.

In 1993, I attended the wake for A.T.F. agent Steve Willis, another dedicated officer who did his duty. I can assure you that this honorable man, killed by weird cultists, was no Nazi.

John Magaw, who used to head the U.S.S.S. and now heads A.T.F., is one of the most principled, decent men I have ever known. He would be the last to condone the kind of illegal behavior your ugly letter charges. The same is true for the F.B.I.'s able Director Louis Freeh. I appointed Mr. Freeh to the Federal Bench. His integrity and honor are beyond question.

Both John Magaw and Judge Freeh were in office when I was President. They both now serve in the current administration. They both have badges. Neither of them would ever give the government's "go ahead to harass, intimidate, even murder law abiding citizens." (Your words)

I am a gun owner and an avid hunter. Over the years I have agreed with most of N.R.A.'s objectives, particularly your educational and training efforts, and your fundamental stance in favor of owning guns.

However, your broadside against Federal agents deeply offends my own sense of decency and honor; and it offends my concept of service to country. It indirectly slanders a wide array of government law enforcement officials, who are out there, day and night, laying their lives on the line for all of us.

You have not repudiated Mr. LaPierre's unwarranted attack. Therefore, I resign as a Life Member of N.R.A., said resignation to be effective upon your receipt of this letter. Please remove my name from your membership list. Sincerely, [ signed ] George Bush

North Korean government is one of the largest counterfeiters of U.S. $50 and $100-dollar bills


U.S. negotiators are heading into a second day of what have been dubbed "serious and substantial" talks with North Korean officials. Yet amid all the discussion of how the U.S. will attempt to work with Kim Jong Un, there has been little (open) speculation as to whether Dear Leader Junior might crank up production of $100 and $50 bills. No, not North Korean 100- or 50-won banknotes, worth about as much as old tissues. I'm talking about fake greenbacks — or as the U.S. Secret Service has dubbed them, "superdollars."

These ultra-counterfeits are light-years beyond the weak facsimiles produced by most forgers, who use desktop printers. As an anticounterfeiting investigator with Europol once put it, "Superdollars are just U.S. dollars not made by the U.S. government." With few exceptions, only Federal Reserve banks equipped with the fanciest detection gear can identify these fakes.

Yet as unpatriotic as this may sound, perhaps America would be better off if Kim Jong Un were to try and enrich himself with DIY Benjamins. Let me explain, by way of a little background about superdollars.

(MORE: Can a Second Bailout Save Greece?)

The "super" moniker does not stem from any particular talent on the part of the North Koreans. It's a matter of equipment. The regime apparently possesses the same kind of intaglio printing press (or presses) used by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. A leading theory is that in 1989, just before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the machines made their way to North Korea from a clandestine facility in East Germany, where they were used to make fake passports and other secret documents. The high-tech paper is just about the same as what's used to make authentic dollars, and the North Koreans buy their ink from the same Swiss firm that supplies the U.S. government with ink for greenbacks.

Forging $100 bills obviously gels with the regime's febrile anti-Americanism and its aim to undercut U.S. global power, in this case by sowing doubts about our currency. State-level counterfeiting is a kind of slow-motion violence committed against an enemy, and it has been tried many times before. During the Revolutionary War, the British printed fake continentals to undermine the fragile colonial currency. Napoleon counterfeited Russian notes during the Napoleonic Wars, and during World War II the Germans forced a handful of artists and printing experts in Block 19 of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp to produce fake U.S. dollars and British pounds sterling. (Their story is the basis of 2007 film The Counterfeiters, which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.)

Superdollars can be viewed as an act of economic warfare, but Pyongyang's motive is probably more mundane: the regime is broke. The 2009 attempt to raise funds by devaluing its already pathetic currency revealed not only the country's fiscal desperation but also the abuse the Dear Leader was willing to inflict on his people. The won was devalued 100-fold, which meant 1,000 won suddenly had the purchasing power of 10 won. (Imagine waking up to learn that a slice of pizza costs $250.) Officials set a tight limit on how much old money could be exchanged for new, so whatever value existed within people's paltry savings evaporated overnight. Compared to devaluation, generating quick cash by counterfeiting another country's more stable currency looks downright humanitarian.

(MORE: TIME Interview with Warren Buffett)

The superdollar affair has a certain comic-book quality: copying the currency of evil capitalists so you can buy cognac and missiles. But Washington isn't laughing. At the end of December, Ireland's high court rejected a U.S. request to extradite former Workers Party president and IRA veteran Sean Garland for his alleged involvement with the superdollar plot. There is also the question of what exactly the North Koreans hope to procure with all this "money." According to the U.S. House Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, superdollars may be part of the regime's effort to acquire materials for nuclear weapons.

Since the superdollars were first detected about a decade ago, the regime has been pocketing an estimated $15 million to $25 million a year from them. (Other estimates are much higher — up to several hundred million dollars' worth.) That sounds like a lot of money, but compared to the $1 trillion in cash circulating in the great ocean of commerce, a few hundred million is chump change. Although costly for small-business owners who unknowingly accept a bunch of forgeries, counterfeits probably won't bring about a crisis of faith in our paper money anytime soon.

Yet taking the long view, maybe a rash of new superdollars from the hermetic regime of Kim Jong Un would be beneficial. How so? Because counterfeits have a way of reminding people of what material money is and how it functions, and that could lead to a discussion of its pros and cons. Cash is, and always has been, such an uncontested part of everyday life that we rarely stop to consider its toll on society as the currency of crime, to say nothing of the heaping expense of printing, transporting, securing, inspecting, shredding, redesigning, reprinting, reinspecting and redistributing it ad nauseam, plus the broader costs of prosecuting and incarcerating the thousands, if not millions, of people who commit cash-related crimes. That's not to suggest we could get rid of paper money tomorrow; we still don't have a substitute that's equally convenient, universally accepted and adequately secure. But that day may be closer than you think. (Coins, however, we could — and should — do away with. As in, right now.)

(MORE: Google Takes Another Experimental Step Toward Delivering TV)

Superdollars and the untold billions of (electronic) dollars spent combating them could be the wake-up call that finally forces us to think more clearly about the costs of physical money. If killing all cash strikes you as too radical, consider for a moment what it would mean to get rid of high-denomination banknotes. Who would be most inconvenienced if Washington were to outlaw $100 and $50 bills tomorrow? Cartel bosses in Juárez, Mexico, jump to mind. So do human traffickers in China and Africa, aspiring terrorists in Afghanistan, wildlife poachers, arms dealers, tax evaders and everyday crooks who hold up mom-and-pop groceries. And, of course, North Korean government officials.

Read more:

Mom Can't Get Food Stamps After Drug Offense, Resorts to Prostitution to Feed her Kids


Friday, December 21, 2012

another asshole @Limbaugh Says Mass Shooters "All Are Liberals" Then Says, "I Take That Back"


what assholes: Conservative Columnist Doubles Down On Women Are To Blame For Newtown Argument

According to anti-feminist Charlotte Allen, a male janitor or "even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys" would have made all the difference in the Newtown massacre,simply because they are male. National Review published Allen's controversial piece on Wednesday, where she attributed the massacre to Sandy Hook's female staff and its "feminized setting."

On Friday, Allen responded to her storm of critics, including National Review's Jonah Goldberg, who characterized her piece as "somewhat perverse." Allen described her latest experience examining Sandy Hook's staff page as a "depressing [...] sea of women's names," while she mocked the school's anti-bullying resources and a society that encourages boys to use Easy Bake Ovens too:

No, I was not blaming any of the 26 victims or the parents who enrolled their kids at Sandy Hook. I am, however, blaming our culture that denies, dismisses, and denigrates the masculine traits—including size, strength, male aggression and a male facility for strategic thinking–that until recently have been viewed as essential for building a society and protecting its weaker members. We now have Hanna Rosin at Slate urging parents to buy their little boys Easy Bake ovens so they'll be more like little girls. Women are less aggressive by instinct, and they are typically trained to be nice

I am also responding to David Weigel, who told me I gotten my facts wrong: that there are actually two men, a custodian and a fourth-grade teacher, on Sandy Hook's 52-person staff. He's right, and I stand corrected. This does help prove my point, though: just two adult men in a building containing 500 people — and it's not clear that both of them were at work that day. Indeed, a visit to Sandy Hook's staff website is a depressing experience, the sea of women's names. Why aren't there more men? Perhaps not enough want the job? But why? Because they are tacitly discouraged from careers in elementary education? It's certainly not the money, because union rules typically require kindergarten teachers and high-school chemistry teachers to be paid on exactly the same salary scale.

Another depressing page on the Sandy Hook website is the "Safe Schools Climate" page. It's a page of links to "anti-bullying" resources. Yes, the Sandy Hook staff's idea of a "safe school" was a school where kids didn't say mean things about each other on Facebook! The Sandy Hook massacre was a tragedy, but it was at least in part a tragedy of the collision between feminist delusions and reality.

As Dave Weigel points out (in "The Stupidest Thing Anyone Has Written About Sandy Hook"), Allen gets many basic facts of the scene wrong, though she claims even her errors "help prove my point."

NRA calls for more guns, while a guy walked up and down the street shooting people in Pennsylvania #p2 #tcot

The National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre in a press conference called for more guns to end gun violence. LaPierre went on to blame video games and the media. But definitely not guns!  That can't be. Meanwhile, during the NRA presser  which was prompted by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, another mass shooting took place with devastating results.












While LaPierre uttered the words, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,"  a guy with a gun killed at least four people and injured five more in a shooting spree in Pennsylvania.  Two state troopers are among the injured with at least one reportedly wearing a bullet proof vest – which protected him from, "guns."  A third trooper was reportedly injured in a crash involving the suspect.

WPXI's Courtney Brennan tweeted that  the shooter "was 'mobile' at one point and "went up and down a rural road and shot victims."

The NRA lobbies on behalf of "stand your ground" laws and offers insurance to members to pay for the legal costs of shooting people in "self-defense." What would be a better alternative instead of a bullshit, Sarah Palin-type 'blame the lamestream media' justification, would be to offer to pay for the funeral costs of the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims as well as the four dead corpses in Pennsylvania.

A video is available at

Google boss: I'm very proud of our tax avoidance scheme


The head of the internet giant Google has defiantly defended his company's tax avoidance strategy claiming he was "proud" of the steps it had taken to cut its tax bill which were just "capitalism".

In an interview in New York Eric Schmidt, Google's Chairman, confirmed the company had no intention of paying more to the UK exchequer. Documents filed last month show that Google generated around £2.5 billion in UK sales last year but paid just £6m in corporation tax.

The Californian based search giant has also been revealed to have sheltered nearly $10bn of its revenues in Bermuda allowing it to avoid some $2bn in worldwide income taxes in 2011.

But Mr Schmidt said such schemes were legitimate and the company paid taxes "in the legally prescribed ways".

"I am very proud of the structure that we set up. We did it based on the incentives that the governments offered us to operate," he said.

The Silicon Valley boss went on to suggest that Google would not turn down the opportunity to draw on the big savings allowed under the law in the countries it operates in: "It's called capitalism. We are proudly capitalistic. I'm not confused about this."

He also ruled out following Starbucks in voluntarily handing more money over to the UK Government.

"There are lots of benefits to [being in Britain]," he said.

"It's very good for us, but to go back to shareholders and say, 'We looked at 200 countries but felt sorry for those British people so we want to [pay them more]', there is probably some law against doing that."

Mr Schmidt's defiant stance is unlikely to find favour on either side of the Atlantic with both the American and European Governments searching to find ways of forcing "stateless" internet companies such as Google to pay more tax.

The issue will be raised by George Osborne when Britain takes over the chairmanship of the G8 and will also be investigated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Raani Corp - OSHA says working conditions contributed to death of temp worker Carlos Centeno - 80% of body burned. Raani wouldnt call ambulance.


Contact Email
Dr. Eugene Frank 
Sr. Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Denise Swiecicki
General Administrative/Customer Service Manager
Pervaiz Jafri
Director, Quality Assurance
Corporate Offices

5202 W. 70th Place
Bedford Park, IL 60638
Tel: (708) 496-8025
Fax (708) 496-8906

By the time Carlos Centeno arrived at the Loyola University Hospital Burn Center, more than 98 minutes had elapsed since his head, torso, arms and legs had been scalded by a 185-degree solution of water and citric acid inside a factory on this city's southwestern edge.

The laborer, assigned to the plant that afternoon in November 2011 by a temporary staffing agency, was showered with the solution after it erupted from the open hatch of a 500-gallon chemical tank he was cleaning. Factory bosses, federal investigators would later contend, refused to call an ambulance as he awaited help, shirtless and screaming. He arrived at Loyola only after first being driven to a clinic by a co-worker.

At admission Centeno had burns over 80 percent of his body and suffered a pain level of 10 on a scale of 10, medical records show. Clad in a T-shirt, he wore no protective gear other than rubber boots and latex gloves in the factory, which makes household and personal-care products.

Centeno, 50, died three weeks later, on December 8, 2011.

I could hear that the nurse in the clinic was telling him, 'Why are you bringing him here? … He needs to go to the emergency room.'
- Carlos Centeno Jr.

A narrative account of the accident that killed him — and a description of conditions inside the Raani Corp. plant in Bedford Park, Ill. — are included in a U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration memorandum obtained by the Center for Public Integrity. The 11-page OSHA memo, dated May 10, 2012, argues that safety breakdowns in the plant warrant criminal prosecution — a rarity in worker death cases.

The story behind Centeno's death underscores the burden faced by some of America's 2.5 million temporary, or contingent, workers — a growing but mostly invisible group of laborers who often toil in the least desirable, most dangerous jobs. Such workers are hurt more frequently than permanent employees and their injuries often go unrecorded, new research shows.

Raani's "lack of concern for employee safety was tangible" and injuries in its factory were "abundant," Thomas Galassi, head of OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs, wrote in the memo to David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.

Raani managers failed to put Centeno under a safety shower after he was burned and did not call 911 even though his skin was peeling and he was clearly in agony, Galassi wrote. "It took a minimum of 38 minutes before [Centeno] arrived at a local occupational health clinic … after having been transported by and in the vehicle of another employee while he shivered in shock and yelled, 'hurry, hurry!'"

A clinic worker called an ambulance, which, according to Chicago Fire Department records, arrived at 2:26 p.m. Centeno was in "moderate to severe distress with 70-80% 1st and mostly 2nd degree burns to head, face, neck, chest, back, buttocks, arms and legs," the records show. Paramedics administered morphine.

"The EMT's were horrified and angered at the employer, for not calling 911 at the scene and further delaying his care by transferring him to a clinic instead of a hospital," Galassi's memo says.

John Newquist, who retired from OSHA in September after 30 years with the agency, said the case was among the most disturbing he encountered as an assistant regional administrator in Chicago.

"I cannot remember a case where somebody got severely burned and nobody called 911," said Newquist, a former compliance officer who investigated more than 100 fatal accidents during his career. "It's beyond me."

On May 15, OSHA proposed a $473,000 fine against Raani for 14 alleged violations, six of which are classified as willful, indicating "plain indifference" toward employee safety and health. No decision has been made on whether the case will be referred to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution, agency spokesman Jesse Lawder said. OSHA hadn't inspected the Raani factory for 18 years prior to the accident.

Centeno's family has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Raani and a workers' compensation claim against the temp agency that employed him, Ron's Staffing Services Inc.

"It's just wrong, what happened," Centeno's 26-year-old son, Carlos Jr., said of Raani managers' actions after his father's accident. "They were not thinking of him as a human being."

Raani is appealing the OSHA citations. H. Patrick Morris, a lawyer for the company, did not answer questions about the alleged violations. Morris said, however, that while Centeno was "a good worker and nice person," the company has "good and valid defenses" to the allegations in the family's lawsuit. Raani has yet to file court documents outlining its position.

Jeffrey Kehl, a lawyer for Ron's Staffing, declined to comment.

'I wanted him to quit'

Carlos Centeno came to Chicago from Mexico City in 1994. He was joined six years later by his partner, Velia Carbot, and Carlos Jr. A daughter, Alma, stayed behind.

The family settled in Humboldt Park, a working-class neighborhood on the city's northwest side. A second daughter, Melanie, was born in 2001.

Centeno held jobs as a bartender, newspaper deliveryman and forklift driver at a warehouse. In June 2010, after being laid off by the warehouse, he put in an application at the Ron's Staffing office on West 63rd Street, not far from Midway International Airport. He was sent to the nearby Raani Corp. factory, which makes products ranging from shampoos, styling gels and deodorant sticks to dishwashing liquids and household cleaners. His starting pay was $8.25 an hour.

Raani, founded in 1983 by Rashid A. Chaudary, a Pakistani chemist-turned-entrepreneur, has about 150 employees, roughly 40 percent of whom are contingent workers, according to the May 2012 OSHA memo. Centeno cleaned the tanks in which the factory's products are mixed. His work clothes became so rank, he had his own laundry basket at the family's apartment, partner Carbot said; about six months before the fatal accident, chemicals splashed in his right eye and he couldn't see out of it for three days, she said.

"I wanted him to quit," Carbot, speaking in Spanish, said. "But, at the same time, we knew he hadn't found another job yet, and expenses continued, unfortunately, and he had to work."

The OSHA memo describes a factory in which workers were often hurt and injuries were not properly recorded. An OSHA inspection on December 9, 2011, the day after Centeno died, revealed, for example, that workers "were handling chemicals including, but not limited to, corrosives and acids while wearing only medical grade latex gloves," the memo says.

Workers were seen putting their hands directly into streams of chemicals poured from drums, OSHA enforcement director Galassi wrote. "Another significant hazard [to] which employees are exposed, as evidenced by the fatality, was the high temperature (nearly boiling) water and cleaning solutions used for cleaning tanks, process lines and floors. Employees interacted with high temperature liquids wearing only latex gloves and tee-shirts."

A manager explained that thick, black gloves were kept in the maintenance department "because they were expensive and the employees stole them," Galassi wrote. The manager said, however, that "any employee could obtain the black gloves if so desired."

A review of Raani's medical files turned up five injuries, apart from Centeno's, that had occurred since 2010 but had not been entered in OSHA logs, as required by federal law, Galassi wrote. Injuries "involving chemical exposure to eyes, high temperature liquid burns and cuts had been a common occurrence for years," his memo says. One worker who had been burned and whose skin was peeling was told by a manager "to leave it alone, it wasn't dangerous."

Another was burned so badly he needed skin grafts, but the incident wasn't recorded even though CEO Chaudary "stated he was aware of the injury," Galassi wrote. On January 27, 2012, more than two months after Centeno was scalded, a worker performing a similar tank-cleaning procedure received severe burns to his left leg. He was handed a written notice from management. "You are hereby warned to be careful in the future," it said, in part.

"Instead of issuing the appropriate [protective gear] to its workers and ensuring its usage, Raani Corporation has chosen to blame their employees outright for their injuries and non-compliance," Galassi wrote.

Two managers "admitted to witnessing [Centeno] with his shirt off and speaking with him" shortly after he was burned, the memo says. "Both managers agreed the injured employee's skin was burned, damaged, wrinkled and parts were 'peeling.' "

The managers not only failed to call 911 — they made Centeno wait while one filled out paperwork before allowing him to be taken to a local clinic, Galassi wrote. The co-worker who drove Centeno about four miles to the MacNeal Clearing Clinic said "he was asked to lie on his written statement and write that Carlos Centeno was acting fine, conscious and talking on the drive to the clinic. Even after the incident, company officials have not concluded that 911 should have been called immediately."

Chaudary, who was not on the scene the day of the accident — November 17, 2011 — told an OSHA inspector that the "wrong valve opened" on the tank Centeno was cleaning, according to the memo, but insisted that "if Carlos Centeno had lived, the decision to not call an ambulance would have been the right call."

Centeno's co-workers, however, "provided signed statements of the severity of the injury and the extreme delayed response in seeking medical care," Galassi wrote.

Chaudary did not respond to requests for comment.

Not long after he was doused with the hot water-citric acid mixture, Centeno called Velia Carbot, asking for Carlos Jr. He sounded agitated and had trouble speaking, Carbot said, but would not explain what had happened.

Carbot went across the street and got Carlos Jr., who called his father's cell phone. It was answered by a co-worker, Samuel Meza, who said Carlos Sr. had been burned at work. "He was like, 'I'm taking him to the clinic,' " Carlos Jr. said.

Meza called Carlos Jr. after he arrived at the MacNeal Clearing Clinic. While they talked, Carlos Jr. said, "I could hear that the nurse in the clinic was telling him, 'Why are you bringing him here? … He needs to go to the emergency room.'"

Carbot and Carlos Jr. began driving to the clinic, 13 miles south of Humboldt Park, but diverted west to Loyola Hospital when Meza told them that's where Centeno would be heading.

Carlos Jr. and Carbot got there first, watching ambulance after ambulance pull up. "I remember just walking up to all the ambulances and it was someone else," Carlos Jr. said. "It wasn't my dad. It just makes you more anxious."

At 3:08 p.m., more than 98 minutes after he had been burned, Carlos Sr. made it to Loyola. "When they finally opened the doors and I saw it was him, I could just see he was in pain," Carlos Jr. said. "He was trying to hide it. He saw my mom and I could see his eyes started to tear."

Carlos Centeno Sr. died three weeks later, on December 8. OSHA, which learned of his death from the Cook County medical examiner, began its inspection of Raani the next day. Its last visit to the plant had been in 1993, when, responding to a worker complaint, it cited the company for six alleged violations — including failing to protect workers from unexpected energizing or startup of machines — and proposed a $9,500 fine. Raani settled the case for $6,500 in 1994.

In an emailed statement, OSHA said no follow-up inspection was conducted. This is "not unusual," the agency said, "as long as we receive documentation from the employer that the violations were corrected."

Dangers of temp work

The use of contingent workers by U.S. employers has soared over the past two decades. In 1990, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 1.1 million such workers; as of August 2012, the number was 2.54 million, down slightly from pre-recession levels but climbing.

The American Staffing Association, a trade group, says the hiring of contingent workers allows employers to staff up at their busiest times and downsize during lulls. Temporary work enables employees to have flexible hours and "provides a bridge to permanent employment," the group says on its website.

Recent research, however, suggests a dark side to contingent work.

A study published this year of nearly 4,000 amputations among workers in Illinois found that five of the 10 employers with the highest number of incidents were temp agencies. Each of the 10 employers had between six and 12 amputations from 2000 through 2007. Most of the victims lost fingertips, but some lost legs, arms or hands.

The researchers, from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, called the glut of amputations a "public health emergency," inflicting psychological and physical harm and costing billions.

Another study, published in 2010, found that temp workers in Washington State had higher injury rates than permanent workers, based on a review of workers' compensation claims. In particular, temp workers were far more likely to be struck by or caught in machinery in the construction and manufacturing industries.

"Although there are no differences in the [OSHA] regulations between standard employment workers and temporary agency employed workers, those in temporary employment situations are for the most part a vulnerable population with few employment protections," wrote the researchers, with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

In fact, experts say, there's little incentive for host employers to rigorously train and supervise temp workers because staffing agencies carry their comp insurance. If an agency has a high number of injuries within its workforce, it — not the host employer — is penalized with higher premiums.

"This is really about an abdication of responsibility," said Tom Juravich, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who has studied the temp worker phenomenon. "If some of the jobs in your facility are undesirable and dangerous, you outsource them to people who won't complain. If you have a direct worker who's injured, you have an obligation to him through workers' comp. If he's a contingent worker, you don't have that obligation."

As part of a three-year study, researchers in Canada interviewed temp workers and managers at temp agencies and client companies. "To be frank," one agency manager confided, "clients hire us to have temps do the jobs they don't want to do." Co-author Ellen MacEachen, of the University of Toronto and the Institute for Work and Health, said, "Even if [temp workers] are not cheaper, they're more disposable. … You can get rid of them when you want, and you don't pay benefits."

Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers say contingent workers' injuries are declining. Yet, new evidence suggests these injuries are undercounted.

In a BLS-funded project completed last summer, officials with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries interviewed 53 employers who had used temp workers. Only one-third said they would enter a temp worker injury in their OSHA log, as the law requires. The others said they wouldn't or claimed ignorance. "A lot of them just didn't know" the rules, said Dr. David Bonauto, the department's associate medical director.

The executive director of the Chicago Workers' Collaborative, which advocates for temp workers, says OSHA should target employers known to make heavy use of staffing agencies.

"The rise of the staffing industry is partially to give companies a greater distance from regulation," said Leone José Bicchieri. "OSHA needs to come up with different approaches for this rapidly growing sector" — meeting with temp workers offsite, for example, so they're not intimidated by supervisors.

Temp workers are often reluctant to report injuries because they are so easily replaced, Bicchieri said.

"They have no power to speak up," he said. "The whole temp industry was created so the client company has less liability. We need to put workplace injuries back on the plate of the client company."

Stephen Dwyer, the American Staffing Association's general counsel, cautioned against an OSHA crackdown on temp agencies. "To the extent that efforts become heavy-handed, there can be a disincentive, then, to using temporary workers," Dwyer said, to the detriment of the workers, client employers and "the overall economy."

In a statement, OSHA said it "feels strongly that temporary or contingent workers must be protected. They often work in low wage jobs with many job hazards — and employers must provide these workers with a safe workplace."

The agency said it has brought a number of recent enforcement actions against employers for accidents involving temp workers. In June, for example, OSHA cited Tribe Mediterranean Foods for 18 alleged violations following the death of a worker at its plant in Taunton, Mass. The worker — not properly trained, according to OSHA — was crushed by two rotating augers while cleaning a machine used to make hummus. The case was closed after Tribe agreed to fix hazards and pay a $540,000 fine.

"While some employers believe they are not responsible for temporary workers … OSHA requires that employers ensure the health and safety of all workers under their supervision," the agency said.

Weak law, few prosecutions

Although the Galassi memo recommends criminal action in the Centeno case, employers in America are rarely prosecuted for worker deaths.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 is exceptionally weak when it comes to criminal penalties. An employer found to have committed flagrant violations that led to a worker's death faces, at worst, a misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail.

By comparison, a violation of the Endangered Species Act carries a maximum sentence of one year.

"It should not be the case that a facility that commits willful violations of the worker safety laws faces only misdemeanor charges when a worker dies because of those violations," said David Uhlmann, a law professor at the University of Michigan and former chief of the Justice Department's Environmental Crimes Section.

"The company involved as well as any responsible corporate officials should face felony charges that carry significant financial penalties for the company and the possibility of lengthy jail terms for the individuals," Uhlmann said. "Anything less sends a terrible message about how we value the lives of American workers."

Federal prosecutors are generally unenthusiastic about worker cases, said Jordan Barab, second-in-command at OSHA. The Justice Department "often says, 'You know, we're not going to spend all these resources just to prosecute a misdemeanor,' " Barab said.

At Justice, Uhlmann made creative use of environmental statutes to get around the OSH Act. In one case, a worker at an Idaho fertilizer plant named Scott Dominguez nearly died after being sent into a steel storage tank containing cyanide-rich sludge. Dominguez had been ordered into the 25,000-gallon tank without protective equipment by the plant's owner, Allan Elias, who had refused to test the atmosphere inside the vessel.

Dominguez collapsed and sustained brain damage from the cyanide exposure. Prosecutors charged Elias with three felony counts under environmental laws, including the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which governs the handling and disposal of hazardous waste.

Because Elias had fabricated a confined-space entry permit indicating it was safe for workers to enter the tank, he also was charged with one count under a section of Title 18 of the United States Code, for making a false statement to, or otherwise conspiring to defraud, government regulators.

After a jury trial in 1999, Elias was convicted on all counts and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

Environmental statutes don't always apply in worker death or injury cases. The accident that mortally wounded Carlos Centeno, for example, appears not to have involved hazardous waste, or air or water pollution.

Charges under Title 18 remain a possibility, Uhlmann said. Nonetheless, he said, the OSH Act needs revision. Congress came close to adding felony provisions to the law in 2010 but failed amid pushback from the business community.

"Accidents are not criminal," Uhlmann said. "What are criminal are egregious violations of the worker safety laws that result in not just deaths but serious injuries."

Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is a co-sponsor of the Protecting America's Workers Act, which would enhance criminal and civil penalties for OSHA violations.

"In every other walk of life, if a person engages in willful conduct that results in someone else's death, we throw the book at them," Harkin said in a statement. "But if someone dies on the job, the rules are different. Even intentional lawbreaking that kills a worker brings no more than a slap on the wrist."

Whether a bulked-up worker-protection law would have improved conditions at the Raani Corp. is a matter of speculation. According to Thomas Galassi's memo, the accident that ultimately killed Carlos Centeno merited only a one-line entry in the company's files, stating that an internal committee would investigate.

During the inspection after Centeno's death, a newly hired Raani manager asked OSHA officials to help him convince his superiors to train and provide safety gear to workers, Galassi wrote. The manager had concluded that those above him had "no respect for the hazards of the chemicals on site or human life."