Sean Penn (search) returned this week to the political stage.

The actor and director threw roughly $140,000 of his own money into the publication of a 4,156-word screed in The New York Times.

The manifesto presumes to instruct the American public on the fundaments of morality, international law, military sacrifice and the passions that animated our founding fathers. But instead, it throbs with loopy desperation -- as if he were trying to persuade authorities that aliens from Alpha Centauri had instructed him to scale a television tower, put on a hat made of foil, and await lightning.

You know the old theory that a chimp, given enough time in front of a typewriter, would pound out the Gettysburg Address? Well, this is a simian rough draft. Among the key contentions: corporate greed inspired Operation Iraqi freedom; our troops were "prideful killers" but worthy of esteem and respect.

Penn quotes St. Augustine and his children; spackles the piece with first person references: I, me, my, we; describes William Saroyan as a philosopher, accuses The New York Times of conservative bias and, of course, complains about Rupert Murdoch.

He likens Usama bin Laden to the American G.I. made famous in World War II: Kilroy. He shares common experiences, such as "reading poetry at a luxury resort," and proclaims vatically: "We are grappling perhaps with memetic evolution."

He closes with the declaration: "If we do not participate in an educated democracy, we participate in its demise."

A fair number of actors seem to believe that a frown, some facial mange and wind-tunnel hair can transform a line-reciting yokel into a wise man -- but they whine piteously when someone commits a little serious criticism.

In this case, one hardly knows whether to give him a hug or a dunce cap. After all, you can take the boy out of Ridgemont High, but… Well, you get the idea.