Tax Yogurt, Not Beer

I loved Colman McCarthy's column {Style, Aug. 12}. After weeks of beating up on golfers, hunters and others who pursue their hobbies without bothering people, he's gotten around to the brewers and the beer drinkers of America.

McCarthy thinks it's a shame that federal taxes on beer haven't been increased in years. Not content to argue the proposition on its merits, he reverts to custom and casts aspersions. Beer drinkers are greedy, since they want to keep the money they earn. So are brewers, because they want to sell their product to consenting adults.

Apparently, McCarthy doesn't recognize -- as A. E. Housman does -- that "Malt does more than Milton can to justify God's ways to man." It should be obvious that brewers have done far more for human happiness than all of the vegetarian, tree-hugging and bicycle-mounted moralists. If we really want the government to take more money from productive citizens, let's levy excise taxes on yogurt, granola, bicycle tires and reruns of "Bambi."

It's time that the guardians of public morality shoulder their fair share of the cost for Big Brother.

-- J. L. Smith That 'WASP-y Look'

Talk about stereotyping! In her profile of jury foreman Edward Eagles {Style, Aug. 11}, Marjorie Williams twice makes a point of his "WASP-y" appearance and compounds the stereotype by noting that he "has the mild, WASP-y look of the dedicated amateur ornithologist."

One wonders how many amateur ornithologists Marjorie Williams knows -- or how many WASPs for that matter. Do they all look alike to her?

Being born into a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant family makes me a WASP by definition. By my own choice, I am also a dedicated amateur ornithologist. I bear no resemblance to Edward Eagles, which says absolutely nothing about either of us as human beings and citizens.

-- Lola Oberman The It's-Its Distinction

The sad state of our educational system and the illiteracy it has generated is once again apparent on the pages of your newspaper. In some editions on Aug. 7 there was a pie chart with the following caption: "WHERE THE U.S. GETS IT'S OIL." As written, it can only mean "Where the U.S. gets it is oil," which is nonsense. I would have expected that the staff of your newspaper readily would know the difference between "its" and "it's."

-- David Persuitte A PGA Champ

Your Aug. 12 Sports stat of the day about seven golfing greats who have never won the PGA championship includes the name of Sam Snead.

It's hard to believe that the PGA (one of the sources you cite) gave you that information. Snead won the PGA championship in 1942, 1949 and 1951.

-- Joseph N. Sweeney Did We Have to See That?

Outrage and disbelief only begin to describe my feelings on seeing the picture on page A18 that accompanied the article ''Rebels Launch Final Push to Get Doe'' {Aug. 11}. I can't believe a photographer would record such a horror and then that an editor would print the picture and the caption, which recounted the savage event. Describing in print the horrors of a civil war is one thing, but printing the picture of a terrorized man in a state of humiliating helplessness with the accompanying caption is quite another.

I have lived through such atrocious times, having witnessed the bloody fall in Haiti of Jean-Claude Duvalier in February of 1987. I am not a naive and ignorant person. Such journalism is a sad sign of how American media, in search of attention, have become desensitized to violence and are perpetuating and seeking it at home and elsewhere.

-- Gerard E. Frederique Travel Time

The article concerning transportation safety statistics {"Numbers Don't Lie -- but They Can Mislead," Aug. 13} did exactly what it was not supposed to -- mislead. The fact that statisticians for General Motors wrote an article on auto safety and its relationship to airline safety should have been a dead giveaway. Using mileage alone as a measure of risk assessment is specious and probably more a measure of utility than of risk.

The true measure of risk is the amount of time exposed to that risk. For example, would it be safer to drive 50 miles in one or two hours? All other things being equal, it would be safer to make the trip in one hour because there would be less exposure to a wide variety of accident causal factors. That is why the principal measure of aviation safety is the number of accidents per 100,000 flying hours.

This is one of the hoariest issues in safety, which probably won't be resolved in this exchange. But people should realize that travel brings utility, and the consequence of this is risk. Perhaps the risk should be measured as a product of distance and time.

-- John J. Sheehan