Viagra in Moderation

Joni Balter and Steve Chapman

Viagra in Moderation

Joni Balter and Steve Chapman

Viagra in Moderation
An email conversation about the news of the day.
May 20 1999 3:11 PM

Joni Balter and Steve Chapman


Devoted correspondent:


Martha Stewart a shrew? Say it ain't so. Maybe we should send her to break Milosevic's will. Or would that be a war crime? On the NATO split, I suspect there is at least some theater going on. Schroder, knowing Clinton is not likely to insist on a ground invasion, can take a tough stand against it. Clinton can use Schroder's position as an additional excuse for not invading, which he doesn't want to do anyway. Meanwhile, Tony Blair can do his best Churchill impression secure in the knowledge that he won't be accountable for what would happen if NATO were to send in the infantry.

My own view is that the air war is likely to fail at achieving anything close to what Clinton demands. But that's not a justification for a ground war. I think it's folly to risk substantial casualties in a war where no powerful U.S. interest is at stake. Even if it is morally right in some sense, the commitment can't be made with any confidence because we can always renege at no great cost. There are far more Serbs willing to die killing Americans than Americans willing to die killing Serbs. When those on the other side are fighting for their land and their independence, and we are fighting merely for a humane cause, they will be ready to sacrifice far more--because they perceive they have no choice. In the Balkans, we will always have a choice, and it will enfeeble our will. To pretend otherwise is to make promises to people that we may very well break, which is a kind of immorality. Ask the South Vietnamese who tried to get out as we were evacuating our embassy in Saigon.

Enough on serious topics. My eye was caught by three items this morning, all having to do with male-female matters. The first was that the Green Party in Germany has proposed a law requiring men to do 50 percent of the housework. (Quick! Get me a comment from Martha Stewart!) Nothing about requiring that toilet seats be left down. The second was that the health service in Ireland is going to provide Viagra to men who need it but will give each patient no more than four pills a month--to guard against "inappropriate use." Last time I checked, Viagra had only one use. Is it sex they're against, or too much sex?

Then there's the Harvard Divinity School dean who was forced to resign because he had pornography on his university-owned computer. You might think his superiors thought this suggested a laxity about the Seventh Commandment that could not be tolerated in a theologian. But, no, the mortal sin was offending the feminist dogma that pornography exploits women. It's good to know that Puritanism, in some form, survives in Massachusetts.

I hate to bring my side of the correspondence to an end. So let me weigh in on columnists. I can't disagree with you on Mark Shields, but I have to defend George Will, who did much to inspire me to enter journalism by revealing how much can be done with 700 words in a medium that is used for wrapping fish. Maybe he's got a lousy crystal ball--that's mostly for TV anyway--but no one else has his undimmed talent for making every meaty, delectable sentence count. My choice for most overrated is William Safire, whose occasional scoops are not enough to excuse his cutesy wordplay, juvenile glibness, hyperventilating tone, and frenetic name-dropping (today he has the future prime minister of Israel humbly making a pilgrimage to see guess who).

I hesitate to name a most underrated, because I'm sure there are lots of good columnists I've never read. One I have read is Cathy Young of the Detroit News, who is proof that good writing doesn't have to be showy and that substance doesn't have to be dull. William Murchison at the Dallas Morning News has a wit and elegance you rarely see in newspapers. But there's a Seattle Times firebrand who's only recently come to my attention, and I need to read more of her stuff before I decide.

Next time you come to Chicago, I can get you a dugout seat at any of my Little League team's games. Heck, you can coach first base.

Out of words,