TVs and the environment
Your story about energy-efficiency testing for televisions in America omitted the fact that the test procedure which the National Resources Defence Council is complaining about was created by all interested parties, including the NRDC (“Screen shocker”, February 4th). The television energy-test standard was approved by the International Electrotechnical Commission and is used in energy-efficiency programmes around the world. Everyone must abide by the current test method until that procedure is officially changed. Rather than acknowledging its own responsibility the NRDC is airing its objections publicly, as its agenda-driven study demonstrates.
The fact is, televisions are a success story in terms of energy efficiency. The average on-power mode density for flat-panel TVs decreased considerably between 2003 and 2015, even as average screen sizes got bigger by half, televisions became internet-connected and screen resolution increased greatly. The average cost to power a television in the American home is less than six cents a day, and that is assuming the viewer watches TV five hours a day, every day of the week.
Televisions are becoming thinner, lighter and more energy efficient, spurred not by misstated facts, but through the power of innovation. The history of technology proves that innovation, not hype and propaganda, is the best driver of fundamental advances in video-screen technology.
President and CEO
Consumer Technology Association
Politics in Venezuela
“Maduro’s dance of disaster” (January 28th) outlined the disastrous economic crisis, including shortages of food and medicine, that Venezuela has suffered under President Nicolás Maduro. But it was wrong to suggest that there is “disarray” among the opposition. The Democratic Unity alliance is more united than ever in its effort to establish sound policies and constitutional order. What we lack are elections.
The ruling Socialist Party is well aware that it would be trounced at the ballot box. Although you noted the regime’s illegal suspension of a referendum to recall President Maduro and its refusal to recognise the legislative powers of the opposition-controlled Congress, you did not mention the indefinite postponement of regional elections that were supposed to be held in December last year.
Those elections remain in limbo, with no indication from the government that they will ever be held. In practice, Venezuela has now joined Cuba as one of only two countries in the Americas to eliminate the right to vote.
Faced with a government that has shifted from authoritarianism to classic dictatorship, and thus relishes public unrest and violence, the opposition remains committed to peaceful and democratic change. To this end, we are moving forward with public protests, and we appeal to the international community to demand that elections be held.
EUDORO GONZÁLEZ DELLÁN
Secretary for international affairs for Primero Justicia
What awaits Brexit Britain
As a Briton who has been living in Singapore for more than 25 years, I chuckled to read that Theresa May’s idea of Britain’s future might be a sort of Singapore-on-Thames (“A hard road”, January 21st). Perhaps Brexiteers will lead the way in adopting some typical Singaporean habits: working 60-plus hours a week, sacrificing recreational time to acquire a high level of education, sharing small apartments with their parents until they get married, welcoming immigrant labour on a far higher scale than Britain ever has, and other such things.
That proven model explains how Singapore went from being a poor place to one of the richest countries in the world in 50 years.
Business in Africa
* Your piece about the MV Liemba in East Africa touches on the links between Africa’s trade restrictions, poor intra-Africa infrastructure and resource-fuelled regimes that tend to spend the national income on things that benefit its own interests (“African Queen“, February 4th). 20% of Africa’s international infrastructure networks are impassable; flight connectivity is the lowest in the world; and rail networks are dilapidated or unmaintained. It is very expensive to travel across Africa.
Regional integration in East Africa is threatened by the personal interests of the heads of member states, stagnated by deep suspicion that infrastructural and trade integration will economically annihilate landlocked countries while profiting those linked to the sea, far from it. An economically linked East Africa is good for all 300 million inhabitants, an economically vibrant Kenya is good for Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. A pan-African idea that has been part of the continent’s history since independence will not be successful until governments, regional bodies and the African Union get sombre about lowering the costs of moving goods and people. Policymakers need to re-engineer their thinking and adopt a more utilitarian attitude to making investment decisions that drive regional growth. Trade in modern Africa needs a policy reset.
They had their day
Regarding the declining profits of multinational companies (“In retreat”, January 28th), is this not a natural progression of liberal, open markets? Established Western firms were allowed to enter new, previously closed markets, most notably China.
As the first entrants, they enjoyed dominant positions, and with that, they earned huge returns. But local firms grew in expertise and also offered attractive profits. Multinationals subsequently suffered as they carried burdensome costs compared with their local, nimbler rivals.
It will be interesting to see whether the same holds true for today’s dominant technology companies.
In defence of Trump
To understand the cover art of the February 4th issue, I consulted my Oxford dictionary. An “insurgent” is one who rises in active revolt against authority. The word precisely describes the blockading, firebomb-throwing, window-smashing, intimidating, club-wielding protesters whose avowed mission is to neutralise a lawfully elected president. Donald Trump’s actions may grievously exercise liberal sensibilities, but so far, at least, they have been within his lawful authority.
You described the tactics used by the Republicans in blocking a vote on Barack Obama’s choice of a Supreme Court justice as obstructionist (“Gorsuch test”, February 4th), However, what you did not mention is that during the last year of George W. Bush’s administration senior Democrats in the Senate at the time, including Charles Schumer and Joe Biden, were arguing that no vote should be held on a president’s nomination of a judge to the Supreme Court if a vacancy comes up in his final year. The Republicans were merely following the Democratic script.
Transfigured tech titans
Schumpeter’s tirade against Silicon Valley’s hypocrisies over social and economic issues was not entirely unfair, but it lacked perspective (February 4th). Google’s “Don’t be evil” motto and the holier-than-thou stance adopted by many new technology companies was intended to set them apart from the old guard: the infamous misanthropy of Steve Jobs at Apple, the aggressive monopolism of Bill Gates at Microsoft and the self-aggrandisement of Larry Ellison at Oracle. If Silicon Valley’s revolutionaries made a mistake it was to believe their own rhetoric, and now the tables have turned.
As they matured, Google and the rest turned out much like other big companies, seeking to establish de facto monopolies and milking them for their shareholders. Meanwhile, Steve Jobs has become a cultural deity, Bill Gates is now the world’s greatest philanthropist and Larry Ellison… well, some things never change.
* Letters appear online only