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Urging a Clean Solution to Problem of Energy Taxes

July 11, 1993

James Flanigan, who lives and writes in the city with the dirtiest air in America, takes no ethical or economic position in "The Administration's Wrong Turn on Energy Taxes" in The Times on Sunday, June 12.

Why shouldn't the President promote a BTU tax to help balance our budget when everyone accepts the logic of increasing taxes on harmful substances like liquor and tobacco? Why shouldn't Bill Clinton recommend a tax break for natural gas, which is the only clean fuel in abundant supply in the United States?

If we encouraged the use of natural gas as recommended by Mr. Clinton's BTU tax, it could energize a switch to fueling our cars and trucks on natural gas that could save our country more than fifteen billion of the dollars we now send overseas each year because we haven't been able to wean ourselves from our dependence on oil.

I agree with Mr. Flanigan that the best way to reduce the deficit is to get the economy moving. Isn't the possibility of saving up to $15 billion a year and injecting that directly into the American economy to buy domestic gas instead of foreign oil too attractive to treat so casually? Are there so many other billion-dollar savings lying around all over the place?

The reality that Mr. Clinton is responding to is the responsibility to recommend ways to improve both our economy and the air we breathe. By contrast, the kind of reality that men like Senator Byrd and, I regret, now Mr. Flanigan, are responding to is that men serving selfish interests can and have always been able to subvert the national interest.

Unless, that is, bright journalists like James Flanigan take greater pains to make it clear what is at stake in legislation that is having a hard time getting through Congress.

DAN THOMPSON, Los Angeles

Business Roadblocks

Truly excellent article ("New Mayor, but It's the Same Old Mess," June 15). But I think Daniel Akst omitted reference to the greatest obstacle of all.

Literally not a day goes by without a mention somewhere in your paper about some gratuitous obstacle being erected to simply doing business. For reasons I can't even begin to articulate, there is a trendy obstructionism that seems to spring up and prevent even the most modest effort to build or accomplish whatever.

I believe it was at the time of Kenny Hahn's retirement that The Times chronicled the numerous parks, hospitals and so forth that he had brought into being. And then pointed out that in today's climate, he probably couldn't have accomplished a single one of these items.

Mayor Richard Riordan can formulate the best plans in the world, but if every endeavor is blocked by "community activists," homeowners associations and "environmental groups," he may as well go back to being businessman Riordan.

RAPHAEL COTKIN, Los Angeles

Interactive Comics

I was somewhat disappointed that in the recent article regarding comics in multimedia ("See You in the (Multimedia) Funny Papers," July 1), what is already being done in games and educational software wasn't covered.

Many of the more popular games of the last few years have been based on comic-like characters developed from books or basic ideas. The general idea behind many of these games has been to create a basic story line and allow the user to interact with the characters and their surroundings. The games may derive in some ways from Adventure, Zork, etc., but they are more like interactive comics in how they look and feel. "Neuromancer" and "Out of This World" by Interplay are both in this genre.

Recently, educational software houses have begun negotiating with popular children's software authors to use characters and, in some cases, the books. The Living Books series by Broderbund is probably the best example of this. They've taken children's books and turned them into interactive books complete with multiple language balloons. (The balloons are shown and spoken in the selected language.)

These technologies may be the low end of the multimedia scale, but they are something people can see and use now, and may indeed hold some information about what is possible in the future.

DAVE ELY, Santa Monica

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