No doubt about it. Despite some awesome bloopers, The Post is a shrewdly managed paper. I'm reminded of this on Saturdays when I look at the Free for All page. Week after week these letters are usually lively and often amusingly opinionated. Though most deal with topics trivial to the rest of us, they are obviously dear to their writers' hearts. Some other letters are serious ones dealing with serious issues.

Frequently they criticize The Post -- and many of the criticisms seem to me cogent. The Post never tries to rebut such letters -- and here's where the shrewdness shows itself. Instead, The Post adorns the Free for All section with little cartoons of, as a rule, big-footed white males. (The figures are rarely female and never black.)

Their net effect is to trivialize all the points made by the readers who have written in and reduce them to the same quirky level. At first glance this is simply harmless fun on The Post's part. The result, though, can be ludicrous.

Let me show you exactly what I mean. Suppose we take a typical Post editorial page, say for a Thursday, with its group of three or four editorials, nearly all on serious subjects, and decorate them with these funny little men. When The Post publishes an editorial on arms control, for instance, we might have it bordered by two of the little fellows, one aiming an arrow at the other's rump.

Very funny?

Carl Bode