Media distortion of Austria's Haider

Regarding Richard C. Hottelet's opinion piece "Haider is no Hitler" (Feb. 23): His clarifications and insights can aid in calming the hysteria over the Freedom Party sharing power in the Austrian government.

Most wire services inflame the issue by consistently but incorrectly labeling the Freedom Party as right-wing, extreme-right, or far-right. This stems from their attempts to place all politics on the obsolete bipolar spectrum of left and right.

Perhaps the most grotesque example of this sensationalism was the news coverage by ABC World News Tonight several weeks ago when they used a Nazi flag as a backdrop to the photo-image of Jrg Haider. The Freedom Party is not a neo-Nazi party, and, unlike some fringe groups in the US, they do not parade with or display the Nazi flag.

The most telling sign we are witnessing of this irrational behavior toward Mr. Haider was the reception he received in Canada. The people who need most to visit Holocaust museums are those who deny or minimize the atrocities of Hitler's Third Reich. One of the underlining purposes of these museums is to educate people so that these atrocities never reoccur. So a reasonable person would expect that when the Austrian politician unexpectedly appeared at Montreal's Holocaust Center, he would have not only been given the grand tour but also bundles of educational materials. Instead, Haider was refused admittance.

Erik D. Randolph Penbrook, Pa.

Giving up Social Security doesn't pay

Regarding your Feb. 18 article "Congress may lift penalty on older workers": It is commonly claimed that the Social Security test should be eliminated because it discourages a large number of older persons from continuing to work.

I doubt that number is as large as believed. If I had a job paying $26,000 a year and could get $12,000 a year in Social Security, I cannot imagine giving up my job simply because my social security would be reduced from $12,000 to $9,000. Even though there would be income tax on my $26,000 and perhaps no income tax on my Social Security, I still wouldn't make the change.

But to wipe out the earnings test altogether would be costly, greatly increasing the annual Social Security payout, especially because many people in high-paying jobs who now get no Social Security would then get full Social Security. This in turn would make the Social Security trust fund run out of money sooner than otherwise.

George Immerwahr Kenmore, Wash.

Detailed platform for McCain needed

Your Feb. 24 article "Why the McCain insurgency lives" correctly mentions Wendell Willkie (my grandfather) as a political insurgent who shook up the political establishment but misspells his last name as Wilkie. Other than the typo, the article was thought-provoking and informative.

Senator McCain would do well to formulate in detail his intentions with regard to populist issues such as healthcare and education or risk a drum-beating in the fall.

Benjamin Willkie Kaneohe, HI

Using the Fifth can land you in jail

Regarding your article "Pleading the Fifth may have a catch" (Feb. 24): I am a retired cop and have been present in many, many court settings wherein the defendant or witness used the 5th Amendment to avoid self-incrimination. One would think that using the 5th Amendment protects oneself from being arrested or indicted. This is not true!

I have witnessed defendants trying to use the 5th Amendment who were simply imprisoned by the judge until they were ready to stop using the 5th Amendment.

Cornelius P. Schulte, Jr. Elko, Nev.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. We can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number.

Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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