Sunday, March 31, 2024

Postblogging Technology, December 1953, I: The Louche Years Begin


R_., C_.,

Dear Father:

Thank you for the tickets, which we received on Monday. I have no idea how you found out when James' leave began, as he swears that he didn't tell you. We are very happy to accept the invitation, I repeat, just in case our letter is, I don't know, eaten by the Purple People Eater whilst winging its way across the Atlantic. I feel as though I should be updating you with our plans, but I obviously don't have to tell you our schedule for a trip you paid for and arranged! I would tell you how much luggage we are bringing, but I haven't even begun to sort that out! 

As  this completely upends Christmas shopping, I would be happy to have an updated list of suggestions from Vancouver, if you could find the time to forward one. You'll also have to give some thought to gifts that will satisfy the little ones and still be small enough to pack back with us. Don't worry about space in the apartment, unless for some reason you decide to give them a pot! 

Your Loving Daughter,


The Economist, 5 December 1953


"Out-Manouevred" The latest Russian Note seems to say that peace is at hand, but in reality is a clever manouevre by the Russians to out-manoeuvre us, The Economist explains at length. 

"Pandora's Housing Box" I wouldn't want to be a reader trying to understand the news this week, as it takes a full column and a half before The Economist can be bothered to explain what's actually in the Housing Repairs and Rents Bill --rent increases for rent-controlled housing. The Economist still doesn't like it because the rent increases are tied to repairs and it is sure that it is just going to lead to bottomless government spending on housing.

From The Economist of 1853, "Parliamentary Reform" It only seems like people support parliamentary reform because a few agitators are clamouring for it, and since they aren't clamouring h ard enough, in the magazine's judgement, they should be ignored. 

"At Marxist Mercy" A report to the UN shows that the Reds were very cruel to the prisoners of war during the Korean War, which just goes to show, and also indicates just how serious the threat of brainwashing will be in future wars. The longest Leader is about a public mischief trial under the Domestic Pottery (Manufacture and Supply) Order,  which has The Economist in a bit of a pickle, since it would like to be on both sides of the issue, until it realises that it can just get upset about the use of public mischief and conspiracy laws in cases like this, and avoid the fact that it is against both government control and export diversion at the same time. 

Notes of the Week 

"Ruler Deposed" The shocking news of the deposition of the Kabaka of Buganda might seem like a blow to the government's Africa policy, but let's focus on the really important issue here, which is that Labour muffed its reaction to it in the Commons debate. This isn't by the way, the lead Note, but that was one of those "we wonder what will happen next" stories, this one about the engineer's one-day strike. Labour is also wrong about the one Ministry of Food matter up in the House this week, but, to balance it out, the Government is wrong about the other. (Food subsidies are bad, tariffs on perishable food imports are bad.) 

"Bermuda, Backbenchers and Egypt" The Bevanites are terrible about international diplomacy, the Soviets got Churchill out of a pickle by agreeing to foreign ministers' talks at Bermuda, and there is a backbench revolt brewing over the Suez agreement after the "worst possible outcome" of the Sudanese election. Because the NUP is just marking time until it can unite with Egypt, you see. 

"An Eisenhower Pledge?" Speculation that the President will, or possibly already has, given the French a personal guarantee that American troop strength in Europe will not be reduced as long as fighting in Indo China continues, is, of course, important because it shows that British advocates for reducing the British commitment to Western Europe are embarrassing and wrong. Laniel's bare confidence win in the Assembly foreign affairs debate is, of course, pregnant with consequence for the future of Europe in some way not now obvious. Speaking of which, don't you think it would be fun to fight over the Saar again? Maybe we can do the Saar and Trieste on alternating weeks! I'm kidding, of course. There's a separate story about Trieste this week. The Economist is disappointed to report that troops are withdrawing and tensions are winding down. It could have been so exciting! 

"Law and Order in Kenya" The East African Appeals Court reversal of 44 death sentences for the Lari Massacre is a welcome demonstration of British justice and fair play the week that the Griffith court-martial "brought to light facts that seriously disturbed confidence in British methods of restoring order." Maybe some kind of constitutional reform could be floated before we achieve final victory over the Mau Maus?   Now that Berlin's fine old mayor  has died, some Socialist journalist has written a column that says that the Adenauer government is wrong about something, and that means the Communists are winning even though the economy of free Berlin is taking off like a rocket. 

"Newer Look at Dartmouth" From now on future naval officers will go to Darthmouth at eighteen, same as Air Force and Army to Cranwell and Sandhurst, but perhaps with some kind of maintenance allowance to the parents between 16 and 18, as the Air Force now allows. The Economist supposes that it will all be all right in the end, and it is certainly a victory for "the left wing and educationists." The government is not going forward with the proposed £60 million subsidy for rural Wales, some economic conference or commission or something in Switzerland is quite optimistic about trends in east west trade in Europe, Sweden seems like a nice country because it spends a lot on guns, not like our Socialists (I'm sorry, which government is cutting which government's reamarmament programme, again?) and the removal of the entry for Beria in the latest volume of the Soviet Encyclopedia obviously means that Beria is out, so the real question who else is on the outs.


 Bruce Hutchison's Mackenzie King: The Incredible Canadian, is the lead review, the conceit of which is that King was "the modern Walpole," which isn't likely to be very helpful to anyone who doesn't know a lot about British history. It is true that he was prime minister of Canada longer than Horace Walpole was the "first" minister of Britain (you can argue about whether there were really prime ministers in those days), but the rest of it is going to depend on what you think of Walpole, and as someone who has a third year course on the Eighteenth Century English novel under her belt, all I can say is --don't go away, I'm not done talking yet! Which was the secret of King's premiership, wasn't it? Bore them until they go away? Charles Eade has an edited volume, Churchill By His Contemporaries, which is "a good idea which has not quite come off."  Richard Hiscocks' The Rebirth of Austria is an "admirable little book" but completely obsolete. Hugh Seton-Watson's The Seizure of Power: The Pattern of Communist Revolution is an attempt at a comparative anatomy of Communist takeovers that fails completely because it turns out they're not all alike, although the reviewer thinks that they are all alike if you leave out the confusing details, like Seton-Watson should have done. F. M. Henrique's Family and Colour in Jamaica is a detailed sociological study showing that what is wrong with Jamaica is racism. Mary Agnes Hamilton's Uphill all the Way  is obviously best reviewed by the use of an extended analogy to an opera, which allows the reviewer to talk for a full column about an autobiography and only bother with the actual subject in a single point-form biographical paragraphs at the end. K. M. Panikkar's Asia and Western Dominance is a really good history and anti-imperialist history of Asia and everyone should read it.


Harold Wilson, H. D. Dickinson, and Joan Robinson write to correct The Economist in its misconception that the 1947 Moscow negotiations led to a "trade agreement" rather than a single trade deal. The Editor explains that, even though The Economist was wrong, it was actually right. W. G. N. Walker of Jute Industries, Ltd., writes to defend the British jute industry. Renato Giordano and The Economist have a spat about what is keeping the United States of Europe. W. A. Kinnear thinks that the spate of takeovers recently are due to companies undervaluing their assets on their order books. 

American Survey

"Blueprint for Better Neighbours" People said that the Eisenhower Administration was going to bury Point Four progammes in general military assistance, especially after Harold Stassen fired all the senior members of the Institute for Inter-American Affairs, but Milton Eisenhower's report on his tour of South America is out, and he is strongly in favour of technical assistance. He is also in favour of some kind of stockpiling arrangement to stabilise the price of Chilean copper and Bolivian tin, but is not in favour of all those Communistic carryings-on in Guatemala. The Latin American economies have actually been growing pretty quickly over the last few years, about 2.5% per head per year, which is faster than the American growth rate of  2.1%. Dr. Eisenhower believes that only "the free play of market forces and competitive price mechanisms" will allow that growth to continue, which everyone is saying. For a change, The Economist rises above banalities to explain that, in Latin America, "private enterprise" too often means foreign monopolies with privileged positions and no local capital markets to address dependence on foreign investment "combined with lectures on economics" by various well-intended visitors and international bankers. Latin American leaders greeted Dr. Eisenhower with such enthusiasm because they were hoping for a bit more from him. Whether they get it is another matter. 

Fountain pen fraud is one of those mid-ranking white collar crimes that gets you a nice house, but in Iowa
"Assault by Battery" The National Academy of Sciences is out with a report confirming that the Bureau of Standards was right all along about battery additives, and specifically AD-X2, being useless. The Economist takes us back through the list of people who embarrassed themselves over it, definitely not including the original con artist, Jesse M. Ritchie, probably the most successful Doctor of Psychology that the College of Universal Truth (Chicago) has ever issued a diploma to for a consideration in the range of $100. These include two expert witnesses, Drs. Keith Laidler of the Catholic University of America and Harold C. Weber of MIT,  Sinclair Weeks and his Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Craig Sheaffer, himself a bit of a postal order fraud, per the Department's prosecution of his company for charging for repairs on their "lifetime guarantee" fountain pen; and, really, everyone in the Administration who stood aside and let Weeks fire the Director of the Bureau of Standards, which could have so easily been a disaster for the Bureau and American industry, speaking of corrupt banana republics. So far, so good, but the Administration still hasn't signalled how it proposes to proceed with Ritchie, and thus with forty years of precedent for regulating false advertising claims. 

American Notes

"Standing Up to McCarthy" The latest GOP figure to test the wind and take a swing at McCarthy is another favourite of mine, John Foster Dulles. Sad to say that it's almost for sure that if Dulles thinks that McCarthy is vulnerable, he's almost guaranteed not. McCarthy  has turned on the Administration because of "further ambitions which begin to look as though they were seriously aimed at the White House," which is presumably why the President has decided to back Dulles, instead of Brownell's attempt to "take McCarthyism away from McCarthy." We also check in with the New York dock strike and the "cleanup effort," hopes that "Santa" will save Christmas and the American economy, and Senator Malone's campaign for more titanium production, sooner. The problem with the hundred million spent on plant to produce titanium via the Kroll process is that people are hoping that research will come up with a cheaper method and make the investment obsolete.

The World Overseas

"After Sudan's Elections" The wrong people won the Sudanese elections, but Our Correspondent in Cairo explains that this can't be blamed on Egyptian money and propaganda. There is no particular evidence of Egyptian interference in the election; Sudanese just voted against the party that supported cooperation with the British because they don't like the British. I know! Shocking!

"Mr. Malenkov and the Housewives"  The Kremlin  is still backing the turn towards producing more consumer goods, and even importing foreign luxury goods, ie, "A market for Dior?" Nato is getting ready for its annual parent-teacher conference ("third Annual Review of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation"), and in case you're missing Trieste stories, well, here's "France's Case for the Saar." ("Mine mine mine mine mine I want it!") There have been changes in the Finnish cabinet, The Economist thinks you should know, and the new South African Defence Minister has distinctly WRONG opinions about hats. (And also wants to fire a bunch of English-speaking officers.) Something or other seems to be up in Mexico's economic and financial policy, but the author decided to take a three page tour of the horizon on the way to explaining what it might be, and I am not following since the substance seems to be that the Mexicans are jittery about the American downturn.

The Business World

"Extended Credits for Exports?" Aviation got them and now everyone else wants them too. Also, copper prices are going in some direction or other; bad news for Chile, good news for Northern Rhodesia. Somehow. 

Business Notes

The attempted takeover of the Savoy Hotel has been thwarted by a mysterious man in black with an opera mask, cloak, and slouch hat, wielding a rapier and bull whip, riding on a spirited black stallion.  Or possibly a financial investigator who has revealed foul play on the London real estate market. I don't know, my eyes kind of glazed over when I started reading prices per share and preferred share of offer and counter-offer. The would-be buyer does, however, seem to be Jewish, and obviously that Will Not Do, the Hotel being left to the D'Oyley-Cartes, (which is a real name.) And once done with the Savoy takeover, the authorities will have to deal with the bid for J. Sears and Company, and with all the terrible things lurking under the surface that must be there for all of these dreadfully terrible takeover bids to have been launched in the first place. Which perhaps you might parse for yourself if you followed the sort of financial news that follows in notes about "rising advances," the mysteriously increasing British foreign currency and gold reserve, and the relation of same to Soviet gold exports. The DSIR has had its budget restored to £5 million to cover its new laboratory, engineering industry production continues to increase from its 1952 low. 

"Transatlantic Cable in Kind" The British "contribution in kind" to the first trans-Atlantic telephone cable being laid between Oban and Newfoundland will include the cable-laying ship Monarch and the cable, to be produced in part by Submarine Cable of Greenwich jointly-owned by Siemens and Marconi and now building a second factory. This represents a financial value of £12.5 million and will give Britain a 41% share of the ownership, with 50% to the United States and 9% to Canada. Orders for submarine cable in Britain ordinarily run to £250,000 a year, so this is likely to put "substantial pressure on capacity." The British two-way repeaters proposed to reduce the double cable to a single cable are not going to be used after all, since they haven't been tested, and the one-way American repeaters have. 

Grains futures tradings has resumed in Liverpool after fourteen years, and traders expect further price falls due to the massive world surplus. People who were predicting mass starvation and calling for the emigration of half the population of Britain in the press five years ago are lining up in front of the Exchange to apologise to the public. Standard Motors is cutting prices of its new cars. 

"Atomic Chemistry" Sir John Cockroft's Dalton Lecture on atomic chemistry was very interesting; radiation might be used industrially as a way to synthesis new chemicals, or to produce old ones more efficiently. For example, phenyl and diphenyl can already be made by irradiating a benzene solution; in the future it might be used to polymerise plastics in preference to the high pressure methods used now. Polythene made by irradiation might have higher temperature and creep resistance, which are important limits on its current use.

"Roads in a Rut" Traffic on British roads  has risen 23%, and goods vehicles are up 88% on Class I roads. In answering parliamentary questions, Hugh Molson, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, explained that the estimated cost of the new routes programme of 1946, shelved during the 1947 fuel crisis, had risen to £160 million, that total deferred maintenance cost was estimated at £80 million, and that ongoing maintenance of the resulting road network would be £33 million a year, and no-one had that kind of  money and no-one knew where to get it and also, tax cuts for everyone! 

Prunes, we are told, have joined tobacco in being sold to Britain for sterling to clear out the American surplus on the best terms American farmers could get. Prunes might not be as important as tobacco (smoke them if you've got them!) but clearing out 15,000 tons of California prunes will, it says here, be "greatly welcomed by" British housewives.  The Northern Ireland High Court rejects the appeal of the British Transport Commission rejects against the finding of negligence in the loss of the Princess Victoria, since they should have known by 1951 that it is unsafe; the court allows the manager's appeal to go forward, which seems fair if the point is that it was his bosses' fault.

Flight, 4 December 1953


 "Full-Scale Supersonic Research" Flight is very impressed with American X-planes and asks whether Britain is afraid to even look at it. American accomplishments are impressive, and even more impressive ones may be concealed by security. No doubt Britain has its own supersonic planes under development, but it doesn't have any out there actually doing research. Also, we need to start working on the temperature problems of  "Bold action and --let us ace this also-- heavy expenditure on research will alone keep this country among the leaders. Fortunately, expenditure on research will alone keep this country among the leaders. Fortunately, expenditure on the British aircraft industry can fairly be regarded as a sound national investment." 

From All Quarters reports that the Queen's pilot is getting the MVO, that Armstrong Whitworth is building a new wind tunnel, various claims about flying before the Wrights, summarises Peter Masefield's recent talk on air transport, tells us about F. H. Pollicutt joining Percivals, and tells us more about the V-1000/VC-7, which, while clearly derived from the Valiant, are certainly not just a transport version of the bomber, because it is much larger. "Large, recognisable components" can now be seen at various Vickers factories. 

"Canberra Race --Navigation: Precis of a Takl by Three members of the RNZAF Race Flight to the Institute of Navigation" The members were flying two-seat Canberras with autopilots using "howgozit" methods, which involve plotting distance, fuel consumed, and  Mach values to steadily increase speed as they went. The planes carried AD.7092 radio-compasses and REBECCA for fixed descent points, the regular GEE being removed to save weight. Each plane carried two VHF receivers and two compasses, a Sperry Gyrosyn and a Kelvin and Hughes E. 2 magnetic and some elbow grease old-fashioned methods (the periscope sextant worked well). There wasn't much VHF/HF to use over Australia, but they got to the ground in Canberra without as much trouble as suggested in the press. 

Here and There reports that the Duke of Edinburgh is looking for a heliport in central London so that he can helicopter to appointments. Westland has named the W. S. 55 the "Whirlwind," while the French are building an airbase in Normandy. The Australian Flying Doctors Service has celebrated its 25th birthday. 

"Introducing the Bone-Box: The Crash Helmet Reaches the RAF: Its Purpose and Capabilities" The American Lombard anti-buffet helmet didn't impress Europeans very much, even though the USAF was quickly convinced of its value, since it does save lives in crashes, which you hope won't happen often, but if  you're going to order B-47s and F-86s, well, that's life. Fortunately the British went off and stole the idea (only better!) and now they're pleased as punch with their  crash helmet. The designers have been working with race car drivers and motorcycle racers since 1924, and have been working on a line of cotton-laminate helmets for the RAF since the war. (Although the approved design is a phenol-impregnated nylon laminate.) They have earplugs, and wiring for radios that isn't uncomfortable or a shock hazard, and offers full shock and facial protection for pilots ejecting from Sabre jets. An inner liner has the oxygen mask. The rest of the body has no similar measure of protection, which is a problem, and so is the good chance of being knocked out by the shock of the ejection and the wind, so the next thing to work on is an automatic parachute opener, followed by neck protection against the shock simply transferring there. 

"To Keep the Record Straight" Flight is upset at C. W. LaPierre of GE for "completely rewriting the history of the gas turbine" for Aviation Age. Which is the sort of thing that American engineers writing in Aviation Age do, but while LaPierre sounds like he did no research at all before doing his talk, the actual corrections seem like no big deal. And to give them time in the pages of Flight! The Royal Society of Arts is holding a competition for the best predictions of what life will be like in 2000AD. 

"Canada's Navy's Choice" Canada has an aircraft carrier, so it needs some new planes, and will buy Banshees and Grumman S2Fs to replace Sea Furies and Avengers and not Sea Hawks and Gannets, which were obviously the best choices, being much cheaper, the Gannet being currently sold to Australia at £80,000 compared with a quoted £120,000 for the S2C. A 250 plane order for the S2F from Canadian Car and Foundry might be forthcoming.

"High Altitude Cabin Comfort?: Precis of a Paper Recently Given to the SAE Los Angeles Division by George Lemke of Convair" Cooling, pressurisation, and windshield cleaning are all issues, but what Lemke really wants to talk about are the ancillary drives for all the pumps needed, which are pneumatic, and powered by turbine bleed, and he really wants to get into the challenges of building these very cool pneumatic pumps. Oh, by the way, here's a neat graphic to show the problems that we're solving with these GOSH DARN PNEUMATICS!

Other papers at the same session included one on aircrew at high altitudes, with heavy emphasis on pressurisation, and a roundtable on turboprops (Discussants are still against them, and apparently bypass and ducted fan designs, too). Elsewhere in America, a Curtiss-Wright flack was heard to say that the turbocompound will reign supreme for years to come due to its fuel economy. 

Aircraft Intelligence reports that Blackburn is working on the B.105, a Rapide replacement, and Vickers on a Viscount replacement, a 90,000lb all up plane with 90 passenger capacity, possibly a high wing configuration and the new 3000hp Rolls Royce turboprop in the news. Work on the Folland Gnat continues. Douglas has officially given up on the XB-43 and is donating its prototype to a museum. The Douglas XC-132 is a twin-boom freighter for the USAF and is the biggest one yet. Besides talking up their jet transport, Fairchild is selling the Fokker Friendship in America as a two-Dart, high-wing "DC-3 replacement." (Quotation marks from Flight, which is as skeptical as I am.) 

"Beyond Mach 1" The article talked up in the Leader, about American X-planes, including the Skyrocket, which has now flown at Mach 2. The X-3, just unveiled, is interesting in that it is pretty underpowered for its job, but departs from previous X-planes in being jammed with ancillaries. 

"A Versatile Plastic: Polyvinyl Chloride: Some of the Applications in Aircraft Construction and Operation" Flight being short of articles this week, called up the nice people at de Bruyne for filler. Polyvinyl chloride is useful stuff, but it has been around for twenty years. The best that can be said about it is that new varieties are less flammable. 


John Grierson raises the question of whether we should be whaling for blue whales in Antarctica at all given their long gestations, notwithstanding the whalers using a helicopter for spotting. Hugo Hooftman points out that experiments with prone flying positions have been going on for a while, even if the results have never been published. Talk about parasitic fighters reminds A. R. Forbes of the old days, before the war. "Pedantica" theorises that the US Coast Guard is withdrawing its weather ships in the Atlantic in a ploy to hamper transcontinental Comet service. B. James is worried that Britain is spending too much money on Meteors, Donald G. Ross has trouble with sarcasm in print, J. Rodgers has ideas about a DC-3 replacement. (The Blackburn Universal could be it.) Dennis Powell also reflects on the old days, before the war. Norway is building some airfields. 

From Industry comes news of Fortiweld, a new alloy steel suitable for high temperature uses from United Steel, a summary of the annual report to Dowty, which had a good year, and not under the column heading but on the opposite page, an advertorial on the air turbine accessory drive licensed from AiResearch by Rotol. A quasi-advertorial details the proposed Fairchild M-186  jetliner. Flight is skeptical about the claimed performance and weight figures. 

Civil Aviation reports that the Indians have ordered two VIP Viscounts for Government use, that the Prestwick annual dinner got a long talk about the airport's future, that chartered air services are getting better and better, says their trade association, that Trans-Australian Airlines is borrowing a DC-6 for the forthcoming royal tour from KLM. KLM is having a good year, Slick and Flying Tiger are still having trouble clearing regulatory approval for their merger, that Viscounts are making money, and that Silver City Airways has been fined for unsafe flying after one of their Bristol Freighters had to make an emergency landing on a rail track in the Eastern Zone due to lack of fuel (and a second pilot, if that made a difference.) 


The Economist, 12 December 1953


"The Choice for Europe" The Bermuda Conference is over, nothing happened; Russia's response is "Europe for the Europeans," including the Russians. Which is bad. 

"Colonial Bogeyman" The debates on Buganda and Guiana have "shown the Opposition at its worst." Labour was irresponsible and foolish and is setting up division on colonial policy where there should be unity. Bad Labour! Bad! Taking all the policies and initiatives into account, and allowing for accusations of racism, Labour is more racist than it allows, the Conservatives less so, Oliver Lyttleton? Yes, he's racist. "Raw boned," is how The Economist chooses to put it, but being nice to the Africans won't help when you're going to give them a raw deal in the end. And the important point is that Labour agreed  on, or even set in motion, the raw deal when it was in office, and now Britain has no choice but to carry through with it. So there! 

"Scientists and Mathematicians" This just in; there aren't enough science and math teachers in Britsih schools because there is so much competition for them from industry. Britain, we are told, is not training enough "middle rank" scientists and mathematicians compared with America. Britain syhould train more, hire more teachers, keep would-be school leavers in school longer, and, in general, do something! I feel like I've written this summary before. 

"Communists and Consumers" Speaking of which, something about how the Communist economies need to make more nice stuff for people if they are going to make Eastern Europeans happy about being Communists. 

Notes of the Week

"Atomic Address" Eisenhower's speech on atomics to the UN was nice, but reaction to it is a bit overblown. The French feel that they were slighted in various ways during the Bermuda Conference. Premier Laniel was treated off-handedly, the statement on the EDC wasn't vague enough, and no-one is promising to help them more in Indo-China. It's hard to read the tea leaves of the autumn by-elections, but The Economist tries. Bevan might be up! Or down! British trade unions are very militant because they want more money. The restoration of the British embassy in Persia will give us a chance to explain that there's a glut of oil on the market and no-one wants theirs. The Persians are happy to have a British embassy so that they won't be under American hegemony, which has The Economist warning that the Western powers should not let the Persians play them against each other, but should sit down, Britain, America, and possibly France, and decide what to do about Persian oil. Ho Chi Minh  has signalled that he might be open to a truce without a withdrawal of French troops, negotiated directly with the French and not the Associated States. People complaining about the removal of food subsidies need to explain where consumers found more money for tobacco, and how they could afford "almost" as much food as before the subsidies. In Germany, even though there are now 27 east German refugees in the Christian Democratic caucus in the Bundestag, calls for "revising" the Oder-Neisse border are muted, probably because, as recent polling shows, most former refugees have settled in and are violently opposed to war for the old borders. The recent British focus on McCarthy is neatly explained by the fact that he is stirring up trouble over British trade with China. LEAVE BUSINESS ALONE! The Economist is sympathetic to Maltese nationalist concerns

"Hush Over North Africa" No-one is talking about North Africa in Paris because the situation in Tunisia is eased by the departure of the ill-loved Hautecloque. Pierre Voizard is enjoying a bit of a honeymoon, and tensions there have eased. On the other hand, it is quiet in Morocco because of severe martial law and the "disappearance" of well-known nationalists, either arrests, voluntary, or "nervy reprisals " of the kind recently seen in Tunisia. The Economist is torn between contempt for the way that Moroccans run themselves and disquiet over French tactics. 

"Truth Dawns in Ebbw Vale" Leaving aside some unpleasant politicking over a chance to catch Bevan out, it is interesting that Bevan is calling for the transfer of housing to local authorities because increasingly sanitary inspectors are finding single people living in entire homes, and the local authorities are free to raise rents, unlike private owners. The proportion of rent to income has fallen from 11.3% before the war to 7.4% now. "If rents were allowed to rise until they formed no higher a proportion of incomes than they did fifteen years ago, the only remaining housing problem would be how to deal with the slums and how to fill all the empty houses." I don't seen any evidence, but I will concede that if you let the rents rise high enough, eventually everyone will be living in the same house. Because that's what Henry George said! Also, we take a look at the debate over exactly how much money to allow for repairs, since demolition and rebuilding is often preferable. 

"Poisoned Air" Smog is bad, but the discovery that it is mostly caused by domestic coal fires means a delicious opportunity to scold everyone for wanting to be warm. In the long run, double boilers, smokeless fuel, and more expensive coal will probably fix the problem far off in the distant future. In the mean time, smoke-free zones won't work. 

"Society and the Homosexual"  The difference between last year's excitement over violent crime and this year's over the homosexual vice wave is that last year's was popular, while this one is mainly driven by prominent people getting very, very excited. No-one, The Economist says, will argue with David Maxwell Fyfe's argument that children have to be protected from homosexuals. The question is how many homosexuals are interested in children, and whether anyone cares about men having relationships with men. It was only in 1885 that intimate relations between consenting adult men was made a misdemeanour, and leading to a golden age for blackmailers. Maybe we shouldn't get too excited. Also, how much of the vice wave is driven by more prosecutions, rather than more vice. 

From The Economist of 1853 we plunge back into the mists of vice waves of old times with "Punishment for Wife-Beaters" which is concerned with the importance of making sure that wife beaters hear about the punishment, and imagines the police wandering around putting up posters, so that "vicious wife beaters" lurking in back alleys, slums, cul de sacs and other neglected corners will know what is in store for them. 


Enoch Powell writes to explain how Britain can get out of handing over the Canal Zone in 1956. A. N. Parker explains that the British Council for the Promotion of International Trade is, in fact, a Communist front organisation, and Joan Robinson should know that, so she's a Communist front, too! Communism, you see, is bad. Dudley Ward of UNICEF explains how UNICEF is extending aid to Palestinian refugees from Israel to other victims. 


I. M. D. Luis, The Price of Fuel is a book-length treatment that The Economist likes for recommending an increase in the price of coal, which will lead to more efficient fuel use, which will reduce the cost of new generating capacity by getting rid of redundancies. He also supports subsidies for more efficient heating grates. 

Frank Whittle's Jets is reviewed alongside Hayne Constant's Gas Turbines and Their Problems. Is it a coincidence that these two books by lifelong rivals were published on the same day? No, it is not. Constant replaced Whittle at Power Jets and now runs the National Gas Turbine Establishment. As such, he symbolises the way that the Air Ministry pushed Frank Whittle out of the gas turbine business. The reviewer seems convinced of Whittle's side of the story, which is unfortunate, because not everyone does, and makes the claim that Whittle was the original designer of the still-secret (shh; if we talk about it someone might take it in his head to cancel the Britannia!) Conway. Which seems more than questionable to me. Constantin de Grunwald's Metternich  review is headed "Superficial biography." Well, don't want that! (It's also out of date.) John Wisdom's Philosophy and Psychoanalysis, which the reviewer found to be fascinating but tortuous reading. Jane Degas has edited Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy, Vol III 1933--1941. It's a very useful book, the reviewer says, and since there isn't much to say beyond that, then proceeds to review Soviet foreign policy, instead. (It was bad.) S. F. Mason's History of Science gallops through "centuries of science" in 520pp. It's pretty good. H. C. O'Neill's Men of Destiny was supposed to be a comparative biography of Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin and Hitler, but misses the "comparative" part. A. L. Goodhart's English Law and the Moral Law and Elspeth Huxley's White Man's Country: Lord Delamere and the Making of Kenya get short notices. The first is two series of lectures and is nice but "cloying." Huxley's book is useful for setting out the settlers' "compelling" case, and explains that history has not been kind to Delamere's project of building the "last white dominion," and even he was talking about racial pluralism at the end.

American Survey

"Clouds Over Bermuda" 

Americans were worried that Bermuda wouldn't be about much, or that Churchill would hypnotise Eisenhower into another Yalta, or that McCarthy wouldn't allow them to do foreign policy. But it turns out that nothing much happened, so that's good.

"Cotton's Kingdom" The only way that the overproduction of cotton can be curbed is with production controls. The GOP is not happy about that, but it is unavoidable. Unfortunately, that doesn't end the story, because production quotas will have to be shared amongst the states, and both Arizona and California have been rapidly increasing their cotton acreage in recent years, and will want a share at the expense of the South, whereas reductions based on past production will result in much more drastic acreage reductions in the Southwest than in older cotton growing areas. 

American Notes

"Segregation Back in Court" The Court postponed a decision back in June and asked the Attorney General to present a brief on the Fourteenth Amendment protections as friend to the court, which put the Administration on the spot, with Republican hopes of consolidating recent electoral gains in the South riding in the balance against the concerns of northern Liberals and Coloureds. The Administration's position was probably inevitable: The Fourteenth Amendment might have been read as allowing segregation seventy  years ago, but it is a "living and evolving Constitution," and "equal protection of the laws" has to be read as barring segregation, with a recommended transition period of a year. How the states will respond is another matter. Kansas has already given up on segregation in Topeka, the District of Columbia will comply immediately subject to suppport for its teachers, Virginia will take a year, and further South the states would rather not have schools at all. The latest New York newspaper strike is discussed, and the steady decline of housing starts since April, which is leading Congress to reconsider public housing and government-backed mortgages. The Supreme Court has told Congress that it is going to have to decide for itself how and whether natural gas pipelines and prices will be regulated, because it won't do it for Congress. Which gives Congress a chance to hand something very nice to the oilfield producers, or perhaps not. Chile has agreed not to export copper to the Soviet Bloc and may agree to treat American copper producers on the same favourable terms as domestic exporters. If that breaks the impasse and leads to the resumption of copper exports to America, prices will fall even further and traders will be upset. 

"Small Business Helps Itself" The dismantling of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and its replacement by the Small Business Administration was supposed to herald a more business-friendly approach, as government got its nose out of business of government giving money to small business. Instead, Administrator William Mitchell has abruptly resigned after a phone call from the President, and government is back in the business, because that's the only way that it can give out as much money as business wants. 

The World Overseas

 "Conflicts at Luxembourg" The European Coal and Steel Community is having an argument about something, which seems to require a two page article, because it is important and so the argument is probably important too. 

"Canadian Tories --I" Our Ottawa Correspondent writes to explain where Canadian conservatives are these days. The Conservatives usually change their leader every time they lose, and they've lost two elections, so the knives out to be out for George Drew, but they're not. Our Correspondent thinks he can win next time around, breaking the Liberal hold on power that has held for almost a century. We also get a review of the upcoming election in the Central African Federation that breathes a palpable fear that the more racist party will win by sweeping settler voters, further inspiring Africans everywhere else to get rid of their Whites before it is too late. China is talking about nationalisation and the role of private industry and entrepreneurs again. Brazil is trying to sort out oil, which is such a serious drag on their balance of exchange. Work has apparently stopped on the Danube-Black Sea Canal, which seems to be dead thanks to the amnesty that released all the prisoners working on it, and the fact that it was too expensive. 

The Business World

"The Battle for the Savoy" I was hoping that a fantastic fake summary of last week's lead article would make it clear to The Economist that I don't care who ends up running the Savoy Hotel, but no, we've got to hear even more about D'Oyley Cartes and Samuels and stock valuations. The remaining Leader is a more significant affair, looking at the growing competition for world market share in steel exports. The world industry hopes that the "inventory recession" is almost over and that normal sales will resume soon, and the British industry is backed by the fact that it still imports more semi-finished steel than it exports finished, and so could weather major declines in exports without impacting its production. The ECSC is still trying to take hold of the European export cartel, and America might start undercutting the market to maintain capacity, while Commonwealth countries are probably exasperated by having to pay higher prices for British steel as a cost of doing business in the sterling bloc. 

Business Notes

"Turn in the Road" I may have missed the main point of the parliamentary conversation about not resuming the Labour "new routes" plan of 1946, which was the announcement of a new three year plan which is still pretty ambitious. New Zealand is borrowing £10 million by a Government issue in London to fund a pulp and paper plant, which is the kind of thing the sterling bloc needs to balance flows. Coal is still refusing to be a crisis, but it is probably the warm winter and not rising productivity at the coal face, which we don't want to talk about as long as coal miners keep taking days off. Laggards! Various commodity prices are falling or being deregulated (tin, textiles, steel, coal gas, wood pulp), Anglo-Japanese talks continue on getting Japan the sterling it needs to import everything it needs to export everything it wants to export. (British negotiators glance casually at Japan's dollar surplus. "Hands off," the Japanese growl.) 

"Viscounts on the Counter" The first Viscount built at Hurn has been turned over to BEA this week. The Hurn line can turn out 100 airliners a year, which is a rate rarely seen even in America. The world market for medium-range airliners is in the order of 200 a year, but to even approach that market has required heavy capital outlays by Vickers. This has been the story of the industry this year, with Bristol and de Havilland also building more capacity at great tooling costs and capital outlay. The industry is out to prove that it can build as fast, or faster, than its competition, and as BEA notes, while it is still making a heavy loss, its Viscount operations have turned a profit because the plane is so much cheaper than the rest of its fleet. Which is a completely misleading comparison given that the Viscount isn't running the expensive routes, even if the Viscount is a wonder plane. Also under construction are two new cement plants. And there's lots of finance news. 

Flight, 11 December 1953


"After the Wrights" This is the Wright Jubilee issue, or, to put it another way, the "years ago, before the war" number of Flight. It's odd that I find British reminiscences about the old days of aviation so much more annoying than American. When Americans do it, they usually talk about the tragic death of someone who hasn't been heard from in years, at a slightly-less-than ripe old age in one of those punchline second cities, your Clevelands and Buffalos. You get a whiff of rum-soaked tears, and a reminder of some ever-green ludicrous scheme involving unusual wings --half drunken sincerity, half the memory of a long-ago confidence trick. It's sad and pathetic, but it doesn't cling to you the way that the British do when they talk about the long-ago days of their youth when they shared in jokes that barricade off an impenetrable in-group of "aviation pioneers." I think it's because, while the people that the Americans remember are sad, it's the people who do the remembering in Britain who seem pathetic. (Or in some cases, impenetrably stupid --your B. J. Hurrens.) Ahem. So this issue has 216 historic photographs.

"Proportions for Lift and Drag" Every kind of wing might have been tried, but we're still working out the details. We know that a wing for subsonic flight should be large, thick, and straight; that one for transsonic flight should be smaller, thinner, with swept-back edges. And that for supersonic flight we return to small, very thin, straight wings of low aspect ratio. Sweep-back was used before transonic flight for stability, and today to retard the onset of transonic flight conditions, and we still have a lot to learn about supersonic flight, but that's the gist of it. 

From All Quarters reports that the winning Canberra from the England-New Zealand air race is out and about, and currently off to Kitty Hawk. F. C. Musgrave has been promoted over at the Ministry of Supply. A summary of an R. Ae. S. presentation, R. M. Howarth, and C. H. Jones, "Ground Resonance of the Helicopter," is for some reason buried in the column. More details of the Fairey Rotodyne, the "BEAline Bus"  have now been published. It will have two Napier Elands to provide lift in vertical flight and thrust in cruising, horizontal flight. Which I think might be the first order for a Napier gas turbine engine? The Bristol 173 seems nice, while the French seem to be getting cold feet over the very weird Baroudeur

Here and There reports that the RCAF is going to buy some Canadair-built Britannias for maritime reconnaissance. An official biography of Lord Nuffield is being prepared. Lt. Commander Verdin's Douglas Skyray record has been accepted by the FAI. Charles Lindbergh has received this year's Guggenheim Medal for being Charles Lindbergh, and, really, no-one does it better, even if I would be personally tempted to cast Richard Nixon in the role. The Pathfinders have had a nice party. 

Civil Aviation reports that Viscounts are earning quite the profit. The inquiry into the Skyways York that disappeared over the North Atlantic in February while flying the Azores-Gander leg of a trooping flight with six crew and 33 passengers could not ascertain a cause for the accident, but noted damage to the blind flying panel in a ground accident that might not have been repaired properly, and recommends another look at crew fatigue. Development of the Boeing 707 jetliner is on schedule. We get a look at the updated IATA rates for international flying. Aer Lingus will buy 4 Viscounts. BOAC is adding a London-Nairobi Comet route in April, while Aerolinas Argentina is buying 15 Convair 340s to finish replacing its DC-3 fleet along with the 5 Convair 240s already purchased. There has been no decision on replacing its long range fleet of 6 DC-6s, six DC-4s and six Short Sandringhams.  

This is an earlier Sherpa, not the Skyvan/Sherpa 
commercial family. Picture is for Wikipedia
 by the insetimable RuthAS.
Comet Development" New details of the Comet 3 have been released. It will have a new, slightly heavier wing, Maxaret brakes, a rearranged front cabin, and automatically synchronising engines. The "fixed droop" of the wing leading edges will improve takeoff characteristics. Short Sherpa test flights are going well, and the Short and Harland factory is very nice, with Canberra production underway and Comet 2 deliveries almost ready to begin. 

"The First Fifty Years" The article is a very condensed history of aviation with the promised scads of photos. 
A Representative Sample

There are also articles on the Wright Flyer, memories of Wilbur Wright, and the Royal World Tour.

What flying into Wellington looked like in 1953


"Internationality: Co-operation between Nations in Aircraft Design and Manufacture" Flight celebrates fifty years of building other country's designs, but unfortunately not all the nationalistic hot air that goes with it.


Edwin Shipley supposes that London Airport needs a bus connection with Slough as well as its services to London. Antony Keary of the BBC defends "Life With the Dales" against criticism from a letter writer who thinks that it makes studying for a radio engineering job look too easy. The Industry doesn't need to run advertorial padding this week, and doesn't, so we hear about personnel moves at Short Brothers and award-winning apprentices at Electro-Hydraulics instead.

 Fortune's Wheel has no new material about any interesting articles. (We do learn about the editor who wrote "How to Get a Raise," but I propose to ignore that, even though it is connected with the big article about "Information Theory," based on the idea of that game Theory can be understood as a nonmathematical version of same.)  

Business Roundup reports that various statistics over the last few months reassure it that "the current decline in business activity is a readjustment and not the start of a serious business recession." Farm incomes and profits still have a ways to come down, but as The Economist reports, inventory adjustments are almost done, home building will pick up with falling mortgage rates, and commercial building remains strong. The one dark cloud is consumer spending, pushed down by the falling off of personal incomes, driven, I think (Fortune doesn't spend much time on that) by rising unemployment. 

Defence and Strategy reports that the National Security Council has sent back his first budget draft as too costly and too close to the Truman budget already rejected. This comes as military planners submit a report on Soviet military capabilities which is an "uncompromising warning of continuing peril . . . as sobering an estimate of national vulnerability as was ever put before a President in peace time." It concludes that Russia is not likely to resort to conventional war in the near future, but is continuing to build up heavy industry by shuffling workers from grandiose, cancelled civil engineering projects into steel and chemicals, that it continues to aim for Stalin's long run goals, that Russia will have true thermonuclear bombs buy 1954--55. 

Happy Easter, everybody!
So what does this mean for Secretary Wilson? Either a cutback spread across all three services, or else a major rebalancing. The budget he submitted astonished the NSC by failing to show savings from the ending of the Korean War, increasing spending from a projected 430 billion to $35 billion. While it held the line on Army and Navy spending and the Air Force was modestly increased to 127 wings, the major Air Force investment was in continental air defence, and Admiral Radford's manpower plan callled for an increase from 3.3 million men in uniform to 3.6 million, due mainly to a 100,000 body commitment to continental air defence. The upshot is cuts, and there is a camp that wants major readjustments at Army and Navy to make more use of atom bombs and less of money, advocated for by the President's close friend, General Lucius Clay, currently chairman of Continental Can. Meanwhile, Sir John Slessor has whipped over from Blighty to press the case for a "new strategy for NATO," which consists of not building up 97 divisions and 10,000 combat aircraft in Europe, an unsustainable burden for the continent, and instead relying on atomic deterrents. Slessor's case was answered by Omar Bradley and J. Lawton Collins, who are still focussed on 1954 as the year of maximum danger, and who want to continue building up to peak strength for that year. Slessor also got an edge in when he argued that it was ridiculous to think that fast carrier task forces could make a difference in a 1939--45 style war in Europe, and that therefore under the "year of maximum danger" strategy they were a frivolous luxury. It now seems likely that there will be a statement on the new strategic direction, focussing on atomic weapons, and that it will be accompanied by a blue ribbon panel of blue ribboned experts having deep (and possibly blue) thoughts about strategy.


Much like a certain blogger, Fortune struggles to 
explain why this nice photo of the Rhine at Hombert
is relevant. It didn't stop Fortune from running it
 and it won't stop me!
  Fortune dwells on the fact that profits are up and that in Solid Gold Cadillac businessmen are cowardly idiots, which is an improvement on being villains. Actual villains, Fortune thinks, are the kind of people who fire other people in public, like Arthur Godfrey firing Julius de la Rosa on air, and Alfred Bollinger, New York State Superintendent of Insurance, who "retired" Thomas Parkinson of Equitable through the press. Fortune has favourable opinions about Paul Mazer's book, which leads it to contemplate a century of wise men urging Americans to save for the good of the economy even while they spent like nobody's business, and look how that turned out, and you wonder what would have happened if the people had listened, or contrariwise if the wise had spoken up for consumption. Eugene Varga is predicting a depression in America from the safety of Moscow, leading the CPUSA to start organising a mass march of the unemployed on Washington, which is tricky because there aren't enough unemployed. (Yet.) The argument about "fair trading," which is to say, limits on discounting by the big chain stores, continues. 

"Businessmen and the Slums" It's got to the point where Chicago's central business district is completely surrounded by slums containing perhaps 900,000 people depending on how you count them. Something must be done, and the city has awarded itself  extraordinary powers of eminent domain in the "conservation zone" surrounding the slums, to keep them from spreading. Fortune goes on to note that the city's Coloured population has grown very rapidly from 275,000 in 1940 to 600,000 out of 3.5 million, and they are the  main victims of slum conditions, being crammed in there like nobody's business and "rapaciously overcharged" for what they're getting. So the Conservation Commission is the only possible solution. 

"'Little Europe' or Atlantic Community?"  Something is holding up the United States of Europe. Fortune canvasses the possible culprits.

"Tax Reform: It Can Happen" By which Fortune means mainly a national manufacturer's sales tax to stimulate production at the expense of consumption. Which it is fighting for mainly because everyone agrees that top income tax rates have to come down, so the rich will definitely get richer that way. 

"The Rise of the House of Olin" Olin Industries started out as gunpowder manufacturers and have expanded into "a fantastically diversified financial empire worth $250 million," much of which is a complete mystery due to being family held. The Olins have their original plant, a brass plant for ammunition, large acquisitions of oil and gas and pulp and paper land, a cellophane plant in Georgia, and a half interest in the plant that makes the wonder rocket propellant hydrazine. (Which might also have other uses as a chemical feedstock.)  Olin was involved in the Government's trust busting efforts against du Pont's gunpowder cartel, and in 1933 took sharp measures to gain control of the corporate group that includes Winchester, Western, and Remington (not including Remington-Rand), although I am a bit confused about the details. Anyway, du Pont considered a bid, but didn't go in for it, as a result of which Olin made basically all the ammunition for the Army in WWII, but not the propellant, where du Pont had a hand. Interestingly, the article has no discussion of du Point's manoeuvre to avoid antitrust in the nylon market by sharing the business with Olin among others,  or the ongoing action against du Pont for monopolising cellophane, a product of which Olin has a substantial share of the residual 25% of the American market that du Pont hopes is large enough to deflect anti-trust action. Something stinks here, I'm saying! 

Follows articles about an executive at Dun and Bradstreet, the cigarette business, how the luxury trade isn't just for the rich once you define luxuries as including stuff that ordinary people buy,  the promised bit about asking for a raise, and some modern art that's also religious. 

Francis Bello, "The Information Theory" If  you were wondering about where the cybernetics fuss and the recently announced DEW Line are going, it is here. As Bello explains, Norbert Wiener argued in 1945 that antiaircraft aiming was a statistical problem, when you look  at it, and the big problem in AA fire direction is transmitting bearings from sight to director, and from director to gun. In other words, transmitting "information" is statistical. This insight required a definition of "information," which is effectively everything incoming to a processor which the sender wanted to transmit, and which the processor can't predict will be transmitted. "Information" is thus not about semantics or meaning. If someone pays a telegraph operator to transmit something, it is information, even if it seems like (or is) gibberish. At least, I think I've defined information. The main complaint about information theory is that the definition keeps slipping.

 So if you have a "bit" of information, say, an "A," that's one bit. Two As are kind of information, but three As are just as much, because they could be represented by 3A, just as two As can be 2A, that is, both are two bits. I think. I'm just an articling student! Who isn't even articling! The most information in a signal is a long stream with an equal number of As and Bs, randomly distributed. The most information that can be transmitted in a signal is gibberish! Thus: "the unit of information is defined as that which makes a decision between two equally probable events." And that's your "bit." The theory says that the shortest and most efficient message contains the least number of bits, and provides an equation for calculating that based on the relative frequency of each code element. Claude Shannon goes on to argue that for a sufficiently long text, English approaches a frequency where every new letter is fifty-fifty, and therefore that a page of English can be transmitted with as many "bits" of code as there are letters. 

Which he can't really prove, so I think that's just an engineer being an engineer. But he does seem to be on to a way of "compressing" texts, and language and reproducing speech, and, I suspect, music. (Comes of being around a man who spends his time worrying about listening to submarines.) The first two are important for communications. The last one could be pretty important for selling recordings! I  mean, that's already the trick with Extended Play 45s! And also colour television --or, actually, television. Bell already has a wave guide that can channel hundreds of television channels in the lab, subject to the "noise" of electrical interference, and there is a way to get around noise, pulse control modulation, which predates information theory but which information theorists are still taking credit for promoting. Shannon also does a neat calculation based on the speed of the fastest typists (140 words per minute) and shorthand takers (247 words per minute) to calculate that the fastest human "communication channel" is good for 47 bits per second and that a human being can absorb a maximum of 50 billion bits during a lifetime, or sixteen minutes of television, although the average is closer to 10 seconds at the rate that television transmits information. Various scientists at MIT are fiddling around with electrodes inserted in animal brains and spinal cords to measure information flows, and others are wondering about life, the laws of thermodynamics, and how information might be "reverse entropy." 

So, yes, out of all this I take away the impression that there is room for improvement on the Extended Play recording, basically independent of the recording medium, so that we could do it on magnetic tape as easily as on vinyl. I know that the argument against Extended Play is that "compressing" the sound reduces music quality, but the information theorists are promising compression that doesn't lose "information," which is what I take music to be. 

So we can take that and leave the pulling-English-professors-legs and the torturing-small-animals to the geniuses at the Institute. 

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