Next of Kin

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Years ago, Liam Neeson and Patrick Swayze were in a film called Next of Kin. The plot of the film was something like this:

There was a family who lived in Appalachia, a mountainous region that includes part of Kentucky (as well as Tennessee, the Carolinas, western Virginia, West Virginia, central Pennsylvania and south western New York state). The region is isolated and poor with the main industries being lumber, coal, strip mining, tourism and whisky (the occasional cultivation of cannabis and I guess now the resale of Oxycodone, also known as hillbilly heroin), its a poor area, the people that live there are tightly bound together and do things differently.

The economic hardship is such that the best and their brightest leave to get work in the big city. Truman Gates (Patrick Swayze) becomes a Chicago police officer and specialises in working with the the underclass of economic hill folk migrants (hillbilly is an offensive term) who come a cropper in the big city. His younger brother gets killed when he gets involved with an organised crime family. Then the slop houses, mobile homes (US Eng: trailers) and rickety cabins of Kentucky empty as Briar Gates (Liam Neeson) and the rest of the poor but upright extended family decend on Chicago to take justice into their own hands. The film was a curates egg, not enough action, too much of a plot and too many messages that it was meant to convey for mainstream audiences, but at the same time it was a Hollywood production.

What it emphasised however was the diacotomy of the US, on the one hand the most advanced and powerful country on earth, on the other, these communities living in grinding poverty held together purely by old-fashioned community values.

I was reminded of this when I read this piece Where Prosecutors Say Votes Are Sold in the New York Times (registration required) about the sale of votes in the 21st century. Ross Harris, a big wheel in the political machinery in Kentucky is accused of buying votes for 50USD a time.

According to the article, one of the people accepted the money to buy a coat! Naturally people are disturbed by political corruption, however the article failed so to mention or comment on what is to me an obvious observation.

Why are the political parties not offering to improve these peoples lot? Appalachians have a history of political involvement and were at the sharp end of the American civil war, partily because the plainsmen of the Confederate states had largely denied them a political voice and their self reliant nature had meant that they did not use black people as slaves (an outcome of this was the founding of West Virginia as a state and counties called Union County and Lincoln County).

If the people are prepared to sell their vote, its probably because the changes in the political system makes no positive impact on their livelihoods or them or their children anyway. Is this the American dream? Is it right? And then politicians and economists have the gall to criticise the way European governments try in some way to look after all members of society? I would rather have a cohesive society than slightly higher economic growth rates.

If you want a more positive viewpoint on these commmunities have a look at the Center for Virtual Appalachia

American Nightmare

Reading Time: 1 minute

Or why US economic policies are wrong and the European model is better

The San Diego Union Tribune carried an article on how more Americans than ever are living below the poverty line and lacking health insurance, despite improvements economic growth indicators such as gross domestic product (GDP). What job growth had been occuring had been in low paying sectors such as the hospitality industry. These figures do not bode well for the global economy as a whole, since America and is a engine for growth in the global economic machine.
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Essential details and numbers


– A staggering 17.6 per cent or 12.9 million American children living below the poverty line, which is obscene

– Average salaries were flat and failed to keep pace with inflation


– An increase of 1.3 million now living below the poverty line bringing the total to 36 million


– California, long America’s richest state had a higher than average 13.4 per cent of its population living below the poverty line


– 45 million Americans were without health insurance last year, a jump of 1.4 million, preventing them from getting access to healthcare


– Profits in American companies have jumped 62 per cent

Hot Rocks

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Back once again with some vinyl recommendations:

Quentin Harris – The Episodes EP (Shelter Records) – fine slab of deep house, despite the ‘hardcore’ styling of the label logo

Antonio Ocasio – Forward (Wave) – many will buy it for the Francois K remix, however make sure that you also have a listen to the tribal winds roots mix on the flipside

Massive – Unfinished Sympathy (Wild Bunch/Circa) – yes I know that this is 13 years old, but Phonica have some repressings with the original, instrumental, and Paul Oakenfold remix/instrumental on it. The only one it misses is my favourite the Nellee Hooper club mix – if you want that mix get scouring eBay. (Factoid: Massive Attack renamed themselves on a temporary basis, during and immediately after Gulf War I when they heard on the news that “the attack was swift and massive” refering to the American-led assault on the Iraqi army of occupation. Bomb the Bass temporarily changed to their producer’s name Tim Simenon. Copies of Massive Attack’s Blue Lines CD still have Massive on the disc artwork and early copies with attack missing off the cover name are sought after collectors items)

Onionz & Greg Sankovich – The Magic of Music EP (Siesta) – I didn’t know what to do my music project on in the third-year of secondary school, so did a few mini projects under the ‘magic of music’ project title, I got a good mark. Fortunately the same titled EP by Onionz is a whole lot better – more the ‘west coast hippie sh!t’ as my friend Freddy Garcia calls it. A solid slab of west coast house to put a shimmy in ya’ game

Hashim – Al Naafysh (white label) – Single-sided bootleg mix of THE electro classic, making it more friendly to use in a house set without losing its phreshness. One to drop with care for extreme dancefloor impact

Soha – Seas and Sirens (Poussez) – deep acid house from France, almost as moving as Fingers Inc. – Washing Machine, way back, back in the day. Amazing and quite hard to get hold of