181 Comments

I'm probably gonna get banned for this, but all slavers must be killed on sight.

Nazis get punched and slavers die. These are my principles.

Expand full comment

FYI Koch foods is adamant that they are not related to Koch Industries or the Koch brothers. I like the idea that, no matter how bad they might be, they do not want to be confused with pure evil libertarians and racists.

Expand full comment

Not mine. Ta, Robyn. I eat oatmeal that I cook myself.

Expand full comment

I don’t remember who here recommended “Solitary” by Alfred Woodfox but I am grateful to you. It is not light reading, but it is important. I don’t understand how Angola hasn’t been razed to the ground and salted. Utterly horrifying.

Expand full comment

"During a yearslong legal battle, Koch Foods at first argued Ellington wasn’t technically an employee, and later said his family should be barred from filing for wrongful death because the company had paid his funeral expenses."

Why, that's mighty neighborly of them. Heck, in most of the South, if a conglomerate kills a black guy, they usually just clean out his locker and charge the family for that labor.

Thanks Koch Industries!

Expand full comment

I retired a year ago after spending 30 years as a trade journalist covering the food processing industry. This story hit me hard, on several levels.

First off, when the UK detached from the EU, thousands of EU passport holders from countries like Romania and Poland were suddenly no longer welcome to live and work in the UK. That was intended, of course -- Brexit was always rooted in xenophobia. But one apparently unforeseen consequence was that many of those people worked in meat-processing plants, drove food trucks and did other jobs vital to the food industry -- and suddenly they were no longer around.

Well, guess what happened. Native Brits didn't want to work cutting up cows and pigs, and the industry got desperate. Meatpacking in particular was so bad off that members of Parliament floated proposals to let them use prisoners. That got shot down.

But apparently what was too exploitive for the UK is just fine in the good ol' USA, champion of human rights.

There's another aspect that kind of affects me personally.

When Robyn mentioned breakfast cereal, my thoughts immediately jumped to a certain processor that manufactures food, including cereal, for the biggest companies, including Kellogg and General Mills, on a contract basis. This is common throughout the industry, and became more so during the pandemic, as demand fluctuated wildly. Besides its other advantages, it also has the murkier one of deniability, because it's one step up the supply chain; its customers, the cereal companies, can deny responsibility for any worker abuses.

I thought of these people because I'm familiar with them. And I'm familiar with them because one year they were my magazine's Processor of the Year, something we did in every December issue. Bottom line, we did a package of very cordial coverage on them that I was involved in, traveling to their HQ and having dinner with the CEO.

Then shortly after I retired, it came to light that they were caught using underage workers, undocumented immigrants of course, in their plants. It was a big scandal.

And now this, with the prisoners. I have no knowledge of any direct involvement by this company, but it wouldn't surprise me.

I just feel like a schmuck.

TBH, I'm not sure what I would have done with such negative information if I even had had it. It was a trade magazine and we were giving them an award, after all. But as a reporter, I should have at least been aware of it.

So on top of the indignation I feel over this injustice, I get a little dent in my self-esteem. Oh well. This will help me get over myself if I ever get a swelled head over my career. (Not bloody likely.)

Expand full comment

Just a reminder that Ava Duvernay -- you know, the lady who also is responsible for Origin -- also wrote a film about the Constitutional loophole that created this system

It premiered eight years ago

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6IXQbXPO3I&pp=ygUVdGhpcnRlZW4gYXZhIGR1dmVybmF5

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krfcq5pF8u8&pp=ygUVdGhpcnRlZW4gYXZhIGR1dmVybmF5

Expand full comment

I couldn't get through it. It is just so heartbreaking.

Expand full comment

Missed this -- I just shared with Jjamie that I had to watch it in pieces, but I still watched it

You know what Joyce White Vance says to folks who say "I can't take all the politics; I had to turn it off" who are also confused about where their democracy went

Expand full comment

Agreed, 💯. But also important to watch.

Expand full comment

Exactly

I had to watch it in pieces, but I still watched

Expand full comment

I've often seen these tractor-trailers up and down the highways of Pennsylvania, labeled "Big House Industries" and naive old me always thought that they were delivering TO prisons, with products specific to the needs of prisons and prisoners. Turns out that I had it all backwards; the trucks were filled with things produced at the prisons. The entity is PCI - Pennsylvania Correctional Industries - and they even have an online catalog - https://www.cor.pa.gov/PCI/Pages/Online-Catalog.aspx - I didn't see any license plates, though. The I also learned online - how else? - that there is also a company called "Big House Produce" and they grow hydroponic vegetables at a former prison in Cresson, PA. And since you mentioned Angola, I had always thought that the most cringeworthy that ever happened there was Kevin Bacon hitting on Costner in that one movie.

Expand full comment

California, too: https://catalog.calpia.ca.gov/

I used to work for the California Department of Transportation. We got our shirts, coveralls, office and shop furniture, and even prescription eyeglasses made by prisoners.

Expand full comment

Angola has an annual rodeo. For real. Prisoners rodeo with all the risks that entails.

http://www.angolarodeo.com/

Expand full comment

Well, I guess I've just found some more companies I will have to boycott. I know the same issues won't be present in their UK production lines, but it's all the same brand with the profits heading to the same place at the end of the day.

Hello, Greggs breakfast baguettes! I think you're my new, lazy-day best friend.

Expand full comment

At this rate we are all going to have to go back to raising our own crops and making our own flour.

Expand full comment

restocking retailers' shelves at night used to be a big one like thirty years ago?

Expand full comment

figures. retail treats their regular workforce like they owned them a lot of times, and the wheels of Capitalism must keep turning.

Expand full comment

Here’s my nomination for guest speaker at next year’s breakfast. Not just from religious diversity but also for equal rights for the sexes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhammananda_Bhikkhuni

Expand full comment

Help me out here, what is the definition of 𝘣𝘢𝘯𝘢𝘯𝘢𝘱𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘴.

Expand full comment

Insane, the kind of crazy that defies belief.

Expand full comment
founding

Let’s start by defining pants

Expand full comment

"Pants" - a form of leg covering specifically forbidden at Your Wonkette.

Expand full comment

Yeah, I thought Tony the Tiger could fuck right off after I heard him say, "Slaves? They're grrrrrrREAT!"

Expand full comment

Okay, I laughed, I'll admit it.

Expand full comment

And why do so many want an actual dictator? So he will punish Other People exactly like this, and allow them (but mainly himself) to profit off said punishment without any "woke" guilt.

Expand full comment

The American prison industry primarily capitalizes on satisfying the base sadism of its' stockholders.

THAT is the caustic capitalist reality.

Expand full comment
founding

“They do the work and I get the money “

Expand full comment

Puritan Work Ethic at its finest!

Expand full comment