Monday, July 31, 2006

workers beer company

Flavourless beers have to work harder to get themselves sold. They do this by getting associated with something that actually is worth paying money for, hence Budweiser's sponsorship of Glastonbury, or Carling's sponsorship of the Leeds and Reading Festivals.

If you've been to any of these, you'll have seen the bars run by the Workers Beer Company. WBC was set up by trade unionists, and the premise is simple and brilliant. They get good causes to send volunteers to staff the bars; the staff's wages are paid to the organisation that sent them. At the end of the year, WBC gives away all its profits to good causes.

It's one of those obvious positive Big Issue style ideas that, if it didn't exist, would sound great but surely impossible.

However, there's a dark underside and deep hypocrisy to the Workers Beer Company. Even without getting into debating whether supporting the Labour Party counts as a good cause. They only consider who's right in front of them.

You raise money for, say, your trade union by selling beer. That beer's manufacturer uses the profits on that beer to attack trade unions (as well as supporting Christian fundamentalists, anti-abortionists, homophobes and other bigots).

Whilst you sell the beer, you are made to wear a T-shirt promoting that vicious manufacturer. The T-shirt is made in a Bangladeshi sweatshop.

So, at the end of the day, have you made a positive or negative difference to workers rights and human dignity?

WBC made a big song and dance about the Left Field, their Fair Trade bar at Glastonbury. But it only highlighted the fact that they can buy Fair Trade, yet at all the other bars and all other festivals were flogging unfairly traded stuff.

They endorse the products of some of the most boycotted corporations on the planet. What they give with one hand, they take away with the other.

I've written an article about it all.

It's freshly published over at U-Know under the title Workers Beer Company: Pint Sized Ethics

Friday, July 28, 2006

do the right thing

Climate change is such a vast and scary issue. Many other issues that we care passionately about - wildlife, famine, forests - are involved to a huge degree.

If we don't avert the looming effects, the damage and destruction will be as big as any humanity has ever seen. It is our generation, the next couple of decades, that takes the decision on this.

Do we keep going with frivolous use of resources and damn all future generations, or do we take responsibility?

It's such a big task that we are daunted, we can't see where to begin. So, outside of changes in our personal lifestyle, we do very little. That has to change.

Everyone knows what we need to do, they're just waiting for someone to say 'let's do it then!'.

Let's be that someone. Let's kickstart an urgent, radical push for what needs to be done.

There are many ways in which we're closer to a solution than with other issues; we don't have to raise the issue, explain it, or say what needs to be done. The facts are well-known, the arguments largely won.

The grounds for debate have already moved away from 'is it really happening?'. Let's push them on beyond 'how do we maintain our current energy use?' to 'how do we move swiftly and safely away from overconsumption?'.

Let's get together, network, plan, strategise, inspire and act.

As I've already mentioned here and elsewhere, The Camp for Climate Action takes place between 26th August and 4th September. That's now less than a month away. Time to start working out your time off.

It's in Yorkshire, near Drax power station, the largest emitter of CO2 in the country. Even if you can't come for all of it, come for some. Get connected, use what you've got to try to make the changes so urgently needed.

We don't know how possible we are; we do know that the only way to be sure to fail is not to try.

See you there.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

graduation singles

It's nearly a year now since I found an old photo of me and my friend Adam, down the front at Glastonbury for Simple Fucking Minds with a banner saying 'WHY DON'T YOU JUST FUCK OFF?'.

It tickled me so I blogged it. A couple of weeks ago that post started getting anonymous comments from an irate Simple Fucking Minds fan. I deleted the ones that were just insults and responded to the ones that weren't. My favourite bit was where they suggested I hate Simple Fucking Minds because I don't like the 80s.

Because what else could explain a dislike of Simple Fucking Minds, clearly the acme of human activity in that decade?

Saying 'you don't like the 80s' to the webmaster of! Is there a more 80s band?

A quick shufty at my MP3 blog Dust On The Stylus shows that a clear majority of tracks featured are from the 80s (though admittedly the Paul Sodding Young and Deacon Fucking Blue ones were just for curiosity value).

Anyway, the good and bad of 80s pop has surfaced over at The Quiet Road, where Jim has given laudable and detailed reasons for his refusal to participate in the Graduation Singles blog meme.

I however, shall dive in with aplomb.

You get the top 50 for the year you graduated from high school. This website can help you with that. Highlight the list as follows: Italicise those you like, bold those you own, strike out those you hate, mark in red those you liked then but cringe at now.

I left the education system as soon as criminal law would allow me to, summer 1985. The UK Top 50 of that year was:

I KNOW HIM SO WELL Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson
19 Paul Hardcastle
FRANKIE Sister Sledge
DANCING IN THE STREET David Bowie & Mick Jagger
MOVE CLOSER Phyllis Nelson
A GOOD HEART Feargal Sharkey
EASY LOVER Philip Bailey & Phil Collins
AXEL F Harold Faltermeyer
I GOT YOU BABE UB40 with Chrissie Hynde
SOLID Ashford & Simpson
TRAPPED Colonel Abrams
CHERISH Kool & the Gang
IF I WAS Midge Ure
NIKITA Elton John
DANCING IN THE DARK Bruce Springsteen
KAYLEIGH Marillion
A VIEW TO A KILL Duran Duran
NIGHTSHIFT The Commodores
TARZAN BOY Baltimora
KISS ME Stephen 'Tintin' Duffy
I FEEL LOVE (MEDLEY) Bronski Beat & Marc Almond
SUDDENLY Billy Ocean
SHOUT Tears For Fears

Kinnell, how many bits of forgettable mediocrity by people who've made great records - Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, The Commodores. Even Billy Ocean made a couple of corkers in his day (Love Really Hurts Without You and Red Light Spells Danger, two worthy late 70s throwbacks to Northern Soul)

I fuckin hated Wham at the time. Me and Melanie Griffiths used to have these furtive meetings at the back of the art classrooms, like some spy-swap at a remote bridge on the border between East and West Germany or summat. She'd give me Paul Weller clippings from the girls mags she got, I'd slip her the Wham ones from the proper music mags I was reading.

But anyway, as I got out of teenage angst and into unabashed pop fervour, I really got to like a lot of Wham stuff. That Fantastic era, Bad Boys, Young Guns and especially the hilarious pro-dole Wham Rap are great, young exuberant records taking the Chic blueprint and giving it a vibrant tight white English approach. What a shame George Michael started taking himself so fucking seriously. Who'd have said, 'yeah, Wham are alright now but it'll all go wrong when Andrew Ridgeley leaves'?

There's a clause in the constitution of bands that says once you have over a certain level of pop in you, you have to do a Motown pastiche. Be it Billy Joel's Tell Her About It, The Jam's Town Called Malice or Spice Girls' Stop, they all have to do it. And they're almost always a load of cobblers. Wham's Freedom is one of those rare beasts that genuinely stands alongside the Motown catalogue with its head held high. But the two Wham singles listed here, I'm Your Man and Last Christmas, really aren't up to much, so a misleading lack of Wham-positive from me in the list.

Conversely, the UB40 ownership thing does not denote any leanings to a general liking of their saccharine glossy shite. Their first album, Signing Off, is proper late 70s British reggae but then it all went Pete Tong, especially after Labour of Love showed a huge market for lightweight offensively inoffensive syrupy cover versions. Don't Break My Heart though, along with Please Don't Make Me Cry, have some real haunting, humid understatement.

Shakin Stevens. Utterly inexplicable to anyone who wasn't there. And even to those who were.

Elton John, still in his getting married and not gay honest guv period. Nikita is a love song across the Iron Curtain, with a video showing a striking Soviet female as the object of the song. Except that Nikita is a bloke's name.

In other gay observations, on paper I Feel Love by Bronski Beat & Marc Almond has got to be the gayest record ever made. In actuality, it doesn't come anywhere near Male Stripper by Man2Man Meets Man Parrish.

A line in Cherish perplexes me to this day: 'I often pray before I lay down by your side, if you receive your calling before I awake could I make it through the night?'

Is that a fear of waking up next to a corpse? And he often prays about it? Kind of morbid don't you think? Would you want to get into bed with someone who was consciously contemplating your imminent death right there beside them?

Maybe it's not death, maybe it's 'calling' in the sense of a religious or other vocation. Or maybe it's a need to use the toilet. But whatever, by the time he awakes, surely he has made it through the night.

If I Was also has a confusing line. The lyric is a hoary old trick of saying 'if I was in some way different then I'd do be able to do some impressive demonstration of affection for the person I love', in the style of I Can't Give You Anything But My Love by the Stylistics or Elton John's Your Song, the latter of which has the most ridiculous line in any song I've ever heard; 'if I were a sculptor, heh, but then again, no'.

Anyway, the opening line of Midge's chorus declares 'if I was a soldier, captured arms I'd lay before her'. Am I alone in feeling that a bloke dumping half a dozen scuffed Kalashnikovs at my feet wouldn't make me want to shag him? Then again, maybe that's why Midge has never tried it on with me. We're just incompatible.

The Crowd's You'll Never Walk Alone was yet another fucking charity record. In the wake of the seismic impact of Band Aid, every time any disaster happened there was an atrocious charity record, like Let It Be for the Zeebrugge ferry. You'll Never Walk Alone was for the Bradford football fire. If memory serves, it featured Rolf Harris, some Nolans and Lemmy. Really.

Whilst these days we talk of the obscene waste of oil in driving 4x4s or flying apples in from New Zealand, we somehow ignore the huge quantities of oil wasted in making vinyl upon which was pressed millions of copies of Tarzan Boy.

Future generations will have pictures of Baltimora in his loin cloth painted up the sides of high buildings in public places. He will be the emblem of all that was wrong with our culture and why - let alone as part of a wider wastage, arguably on his own - it justified their bloody cultural revolution that massacred us all.

Friday, July 21, 2006

drax the destroyer

I've just published a piece on The Sharpener about Drax power station; the largest emitter of CO2 in the UK, and the main target for action from the Camp For Climate Action.

Called Drax The Destroyer, it takes apart any claims that burning coal is somehow acceptable in a world that needs to avert serious climate change.

Like Barbara Freese puts it in Coal: A Human History

We've made a lot of mistakes over the centuries as we've struggled to understand the nature and impact of coal and its smoke.

Some thought coal grew underground from seeds or in mines guarded by demons or dragons. Some saw in the mines scientific proof of the biblical flood. Some credited coal with protecting people from the bubonic plague; others accused it of promoting baldness, tooth decay, sordid murders, caustic speech and fuzzy thinking.

More recently, many of us believed we could burn vast amounts of coal indefinitely without disrupting the natural balance of the planet.

No doubt we still have much ot learn about coal, but at least we've been able to dispel many of the old myths.

UPDATE: In order to prevent crossover and keep the debate in one place, any Comments for my posts on The Sharpener should be left there rather than here.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

freedom of information

In May last year the West feigned surprise at the vicious behaviour of the government in Uzbekistan.

I wrote at the time about how it's another aspect of the oil story, and how we've long overlooked the torture meted out by the government because they're politically cosy with our interests.

I also mentioned the way that the British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, had called attention to human rights abuses, and for his troubles was smeared and sacked by the Foreign Office.

The British government have been trying to silence Craig since then. His book, Murder in Samarkand, has just been published.

This has happened despite the best efforts of the British Government to suppress it. In support of the points he makes in his book, Craig published a number of documents online that the British Government does not want you to see.

He then received a letter from lawyers acting on behalf of the Foreign Office demanding that he remove the documents from his website or he will be issued with a high court injunction. The government is claiming copyright on anything they ever publish, simply as a device to gag someone who exposes their collusion with torture.

This is where bloggers come in. We need to put these documents up - or at the very least links to the sites - in as many places as possible, make it impossible and in fact counterproductive for them to try and censor him. The implications of them getting away with it are, as Craig details below, absolutely enormous.

We've done this before, such as the time the government tried to remove The Guardian's piece on The Ricin Ring That Never Was.

If you have a blog or any webspace, please spread these around.

I've put a Torrent file of all Craig's documents up here.

Craig said:

I am sorry to trouble you, but believe that we now face a threat both to the Web and to Freedom of Information in the UK which must be challenged. The British government is arguing that government documents, even if released under the Freedom of Information Act or Data Protection Act, cannot be published, on the web or elsewhere, as they remain Crown Copyright. They have required me to remove documents from my website on that basis, under threat of legal action.

If you think about it for a moment, the government could thus cancel out almost the whole purpose of the Freedom of Information Act; information released would be just for the private use of an individual. Newspapers - or bloggers - could not publish it in any detail.

If accepted, this extraordinary use of copyright could keep literally everything - everything - produced by government a secret.

The documents in question are the supporting evidence for my book, Murder in Samarkand, which has just been released. The government continues to claim my story is untrue. There is one important advance in all this. Up until now the government refused to acknowledge the documents were authentic. Now Buttrill's letter specifically acknowledges all of the documents and claims copyright over them.

Some of these documents have already been published widely on the web (not least due to the efforts of many of you on this list), particularly the "Tashkent telegrams" on CIA and MI6 use of intelligence obtained under torture in Uzbekistan. Those are now admitted as authentic.

Some are new to the web. Perhaps the most important is the chart of the changes the British Government insisted be made to the book. These are extremey revealing for what they admit to be true - for example, only minor changes are requested in the key meeting between senior officials on the legality of using intelligence from torture, at which it was confirmed that this is US and UK policy.

Perhaps still more revealing is the insistence on removal of the assertion that "Colin Powell knowingly lied" when he claimed that bombs in Tashkent were the work of al-Qaida. The British government insisted on removal not because it was untrue - as detailed in the book, they know full well it is true - but because it would "Damage UK-US relations".

The changes requested were made in the book, because my publisher would not publish without. That is why the truth needs to be out there on the web.

It is on the face of it very strange that the British Government is going after me over the Copyright Act and not the Official Secrets Act. The answer is simple - under the Copyright Act there is no jury. A jury would never convict for campaigning against torture, and be most unlikely to accept that documents released cannot be published. The table of changes requested by the government is not even a classified document in the first place. But a single judge may be more malleable - John Reid had put a huge effort lately into browbeating judges over anything connected to the so-called War on Terror. As the government know very well I have no money to pay a small, or even large fine, they can get the book and documents banned and me in jail without having to convince any jury of pesky citizens.

How to fight back?

Well, we must not let the documents disappear from the web. There is as yet no legal ruling on these matters, Mr Buttrill's claims are only highly controversial legal contentions. So if you post the documents pending a court ruling, there is a danger you may be contravening the - civil, not criminal - law, but then again you may not. You would quite likely receive a threatening letter from Mr Buttrill. Now you have this email from me, NSA and GCHQ are almost certainly tracking you, (they can, incidentally, reciprocally spy in the other country for each other and then swap the info, because neither needs a warrant to spy abroad), but then they probably were already.

The publisher had firm and very expensive legal advice that it was not contravening any civil or criminal law to publish in the book links to web pages containing the documents. So you are almost certainly on safe legal ground in publishing this link to the Dahr Jamail site if you do not wish to mirror the docs yourself.

Feel free to publish this email and the letter from Mr Buttrill.

It might also be helpful if we urged people to contact him, by phone, email or letter, and ask him complex questions about the fascinating and difficult legal and ethical questions thrown up by the government's position. As a government servant he's obliged to reply.

Finally, the government made plain to parliament that it would act against the book itself if it was published. As it only came out on Friday, no injunction yet but it could happen any time. So if you are interested in getting it, buy now and beat the injunctions! It is available from most online booksellers, though bookshops seem very reluctant to stock it.

Many Thanks,

Craig Murray

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

leeds: live it, lease it

There's a real eye-opener in the current Corporate Watch newsletter. Depite living in Leeds, I had no idea about the extent to which we're being fucked over by privatisation of our services. The piece is called 'Leeds: Live It Lease It', a play on the city's slogan of 'Live It, Love It', which cost us £150,000 despite the fact that it's the slogan used by Hong Kong.

All the sell-offs are flabbergasting, but the thing that dropped my jaw to the floor was this

The supposedly state-of-the-art schools constructed by Mowlem as part of the £35 million Leeds 7 Schools Project were built without kitchens. 'Nutritious', pre-cooked, frozen food is therefore shipped in each day from Mowlem's catering facilities at a hospital near Middlesbrough.

On so many levels: FUCK!

It means that the food will have to be processed stuff, diminishing the nutritional value.

It means a round trip of over a hundred miles every day just to bring the food in, with all the extra resource consumption that entails.

It means that the provision of meals will always have to be contracted out, as the school has nowhere to cook.

It means that it can never serve locally produced, fresh food, prepared and served by local people with a relationship to the school.

As ever, PFI is benefiting the wealthy at the expense of the local people who are meant to be grateful.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

take the high road

May the few crumbs of this post sustain you through the long days to come.

Once again I trundle offline and offshore into the sunset, cycling and walking on a small array of Scottish islands.

Last year the plan was Arran, Islay and Jura. The first two were so involving that there wasn't time to do all three.

This year Jura takes centre stage. A place where deer outnumber humans thirty to one. Where, if they drank the whisky they make, they'd get through just under a bottle an hour, every hour, every man woman and child. The place where there's the oldest stone structure in Scotland, the place where the KLF burned a million quid, where George Orwell wrote 1984.

For more, see last year's hiatus announcement.

Back in ten days or so.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

the fat lady sings

It's with some sadness that I note the demise of Top of The Pops. It was always mostly crap, but that was part of what gave it its value.

When The Jesus and Mary Chain's April Skies was released and went Top 10, they were given a TOTP appearance. Janice Long asked Jim Reid if it was a sellout and he emphatically said not.

He explained that he'd grown up watching it and there would be all this disposable commercial fluff, then there'd be some wild card, someone who looked like they shouldn't have been allowed on in the first place. Reid cited Bolan and the Buzzocks, naming them as key stages in the development of his will to make music.

The first important musical choice of my life was made whilst watching Top Of The Pops. It was the week of my tenth birthday and I'd got a little bit of money from relatives. The Jam did Strange Town, I went out and bought it and nothing was ever the same again.

It is classic Jam, muscular, tense, urban, volatile, political and restless. It was nothing like life in the dull middle class dormitory suburb I was growing up in, and that was its magic.

Whilst the Jam and punk in general were welcomed by some for speaking about things you recognise (an understandable craving in the decade that brought you albums called Tales Of Topographic Oceans and Zinc Alloy And The Hidden Riders Of Tomorrow Or A Creamed Cage In August), for me it was something different. It spoke of a vibrant, exciting life out there, where things were alive and real, where you could live by your passions and make your own choices.

When the American Religious Right had their big push to censor music in the late 80s, it led to the invention of those 'Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics' stickers being volunteered by the record industry as a way to head off any regulation.

But whilst it made some albums seem cool to the youth they were supposed to protect by virtue of having the stickers on, there was a genuine censorship effect. Big chains like Woolworths and Wal-Mart refused to stock anything that bore a sticker. For many people growing up in small towns, that was their only record store. So it was away with Public Enemy and Prince and on to a strict diet of Michael Bolton and Debbie Gibson.

Similarly, as an adolescent hating the conformity of my surroundings, knowing that music could provide the outlet, I was constrained. Not by censorship, but by what was put in front of me blocking the view of where I wanted to go. I didn't know where to start. Top Of The Pops had its one or two freaks per show. They were my first steps.

The Jam were it for me, and to this day still command a powerful respect. I recently made a compilation for someone and it still absolutely zings out of the speakers, full of intent and fire. Beat Surrender just throws you round the room, fucking amazing.

In the days before dedicated music channels, there was so little music on TV. Yet pop music was the dominant cultural expression, it was to the late 20th century what the novel was to the 19th. In the same way that generals are always competant for fighting the last war, so pre-Sky TV commissioning editors were good for making programmes for the previous generation. They only let us have TOTP, Whistle Test (a bit grown up for a 13 year old), and Saturday morning programmes (too stupid and full of Keith Chegwin and cuddly toys). So TOTP was the one.

Pretty much anyone born between 1960 and 1980 will remember certain TOTP performances; things they saw once, on TV, for the length of a commercial break, twenty years ago!

I remember seeing Bauhaus doing Ziggy Stardust in the days when TOTP gave you stage space in proportion to your comercial standing (Bauhaus got a postage stamp, whereas Jagger got three stages linked by catwalk bridges). It sounded so fucking alien to my ears, barely like music at all. It let me know that there was a lot more lot music than the Thompson Twins and Leee John.

Then every Smiths appearance felt like a victory. There was The Bard, chief giver of not a fuck, his very presence mocking all that chart froth. Ripping open his shirt during William It Was Really Nothing to reveal MARRY ME in eyeliner on his chest. The presenter's sneery acidic tone after saying 'at just over two minutes, that's the shortest record on the chart this week', as if length was quality. I remember the smug glow inside, the one-over extra edge in knowing that the B-side, Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want, was even shorter.

Then holy moly, Shoplifters of The World Unite, such a rolling thundercloud of anti-chart pop. Like all their songs, the music set them apart from everything around them, but the fact that The Bard could be on national TV holding a placard with the title on was fucking revolutionary.

John Peel managed to keep on being allowed to present TOTP despite huge sarcyness. After I Knew You Were Waiting for Me, Aretha Franklin's duet with George Michael, he said, 'it's long been said that Aretha Franklin could sing any old rubbish and make it sound good, and I think she just has'.

As well as remembering specific performances, whether they'll admit it to you now or not, most people of the TOTP generation will have fantasised about being on it. I just about managed it! In February 1996 Julian Cope got to present a show. Mercifully, he broke with his past habit of doing it peaking on acid.

He was knee deep in the Newbury Bypass campaign at the time, so he took a couple of us from the protest along with him.

It was hilarious. Newbury had dominated the news for weeks. Julian brought hard hats and fluoro tunics so we'd look like the familiar Newbury security guards. He'd had a bunch of T-shirts made up, and swapped them between songs.

One aimed at Newbury's pro-road MP, David Rendel: RENDEL: U-TURN NOW!

He'd ad-lib nods to it all, 'we're sailing high over the Mother Earth tonight, we're clearly out of our trees'. We got the singer from Terrorvision to wear a hard hat. It was a fabulous prankster mix of topical politics and cultural collage.

It got more complaints than any other edition, even the one where Larry out of Cameo wore that massive red codpiece. One of them came in from David Rendel himself, the LibDem corporate scumpig.

I've still have a souvenir, a packet of king size Rizlas with roaches ripped out of the flap that we retrieved afterwards from East 17's dressing room.

I don't mourn the show's passing too much. The fondness is all nostalgic, really. It dies because there are so many outlets for music today. If you want to get your hands on relevant music in these cybertimes, you can easily find your kind of people and get their recommendations and be listening to things quickly, and without blowing money on a record that could turn out to be shite.

In these days of plenty, I am grateful to those who sustained us through the famine.

Monday, July 03, 2006

not so green peace

A while ago I wrote an article on the massive dams planned for new smelters in Iceland, the largest assault on wild nature in all of Europe.

In researching that, I came across evidence of astonishing complicity in the matter by Greenpeace, and wrote an article about that.

In researching that piece, I found out a lot about Greenpeace that didn't tally with the image I - and it seems most others - have of them.

Whilst Greenpeace trade on an image of daring direct action to confront governments and corporations that despoil the environment, much of what they do has the opposite effect. I readily admit and indeed admire the vast amount of great work they have done and continue to do, but there is also a seriously counterproductive corporate side to them.

Run by directors whose career paths move from Greenpeace to senior positions as PR consultants for the very industries they opposed, Greenpeace strikes deals agreeing not to obstruct oil companies' property, and instead to strengthen the hand of Europe’s largest industrial CO2 emitter.

That stuff has been spliced with some writing from a recent blog post and turned into a great big newly published article called Not So Green Peace.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

and so this is christmas

The bard said, 'it's July but it's cold as Christmas in the middle of the year'.

However, in a magnificent cakey-eaty arrangement, for me it's July, it's hot and it's Christmas.

Living in the Leeds inner city area of Hyde Park, 1st July is one of the most important dates in the calendar. It's the time of many tenancy agreements ending, especially those of our large student population.

(That's a large population of students, not a population of large students).

Having lived in a house for a year before going back to the smaller accommodation at their parents', they leave a lot of stuff behind that gets stuck in a skip by their newly ex-landlord. The effect is exaggerated for the many overseas students who have to take all their belongings back in a suitcase.

This makes rich pickings for those of us who live here permanently. It's not just pizza boxes and burst armchairs. It's perfectly working electrical appliances, furniture, clothes, books, CDs, posters, all kinds of useful household stuff that would otherwise go to landfill sites. It's known amongst friends as Hyde Park Christmas.

There's a positive flipside too. If I've any tat I need rid of, it can be disposed of for free by dropping it into one of the skips paid for by the overwealthy landlords.

It is perhaps the only system of exchange that might genuinely merit the term 'free market'. Even dumping stuff in the skips doesn't cost the landlords anything as I'm removing as much as I add.

Not that it would bother me too much anyway. I'm in wholehearted agreement with George Orwell's opinion of landlords.

These people are just about as useful as so many tapeworms. It is desirable that people should own their own dwelling houses, and it is probably desirable that a farmer should own as much land as he can actually farm. But the ground-landlord in a town area has no function and no excuse for existence. He is merely a person who has found out a way of milking the public while giving nothing in return. He causes rents to be higher, he makes town planning more difficult, and he excludes children from green spaces: that is literally all that he does, except to draw his income.