Friday, February 25, 2005

"Jeff Gannon," more homophobia on the Left, and a teeny-tiny yawn

I haven't written on the whole "Jeff Gannon" business, because I'm tired of talking about homophobia on the Left. Yes, Gannon -- nee James Guckert -- was a Gay escort and small-time writer who bluffed his way into a White House press pass. Since no one has proven that the man posed a legitimate risk to the President, the security aspect of this story doesn't bother me. I figure if Helen Thomas can still get into press conferences, just about anybody can.

Left-wing snickers over Gannon/Guckert's career as a male escort didn't exactly surprise me, though. I've written quite a bit on left-wing homophobia, which is every bit as mean-spirited (though not as well-publicized) as right-wing homophobia. My recent essay on Arthur Miler noted that homophobia is written into the very mythology of the Left. The Kerry-Edwards presidential ticket didn't shy away from anti-Gay rhetoric when they felt it would advance their agenda: In fact, among the mainstream candidates, only Dick Cheney refrained from Gay-baiting (and look at how we're repaying him now). Frankly, compared to what I've seen in The Nation and, the fuss over Guckert's sexual orientation strikes me as pretty mild.

Luckily, other conservative Gay bloggers -- like Andrew Sullivan and Steve Miller -- still have some capacity for outrage. They're right to note that the Left's obsession with Guckert is fueled by anti-Gay hostility. They're also right to note that the Gay-rights establishment will never address the problem of homophobia on the Left.

So what else is new?

Update (3/1): A loyal reader writes in to tell me that my claims about left-wing homophobia are so much horse manure. (He's too polite to put it this way, but I'm not.) He reminds me, quite rightly, that whatever left-wing Democrats actually think about Gay people, they're more likely to support Gay-friendly legislation -- and far less likely to support anti-Gay legislation -- than their right-wing counterparts. So whether or not left-liberals secretly despise Gay people on a personal level, they're still less homophobic on a public level. And that public level, my reader claims, is all that matters in the long run.

I'm not so sure that's true, however. Among the Left, vile thoughts often lead to vile deeds. Take Bill Clinton, who campaigned for the Gay vote in 1992, then turned on us twice during the next eight years by signing some of the most disastrous legislation for Gay people since the sodomy laws of the Colonial era. He's still telling his fellow Democrats to jump on the anti-Gay bandwagon (advice which John Edwards clearly followed during the 2004 campaign). My loyal reader claims that Clinton should be excused for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the "Defense of Marriage Act," because Republicans were even more gung-ho for these measures than Democrats were. Perhaps, but I doubt the GOP forced Clinton to go on Christian radio and brag about DoMA the day after he signed it. (Republicans can't take credit for thinking up "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which sent the number of anti-Gay military discharges into the stratosphere. That was a left-liberal idea.)

Still, my reader is quite right about the state of politics in America. For Gay Americans, the difference between the Left and the Right is that the Left hates us behind our backs, while the Right hates us to our face.

Virginia Update: The pendulum swings back ...

As regular readers of this blog know, Virginia has the only law in the United States which bars insurance companies from covering same-sex partners (as well as other "unrelated" persons) in their policies.

But not for much longer.

Today, the Virginia General Assembly finally passed the "Insurance Parity" bill, which will allow insurance companies to offer benefits to whomever they choose. The bill faced a tough fight in the House of Delegates: GOP Delegate Bob Marshall, author of the "Marriage Protection Act" (which effectively denies same-sex couples the right to private contract), proposed four amendments, in a last-ditch effort to retain Virginia's status as the most anti-Gay state in the Union. One by one, those amendments went down to defeat, and the bill squeaked through the House by a single vote.

Democratic Governor Mark Warner has vowed to sign the "Insurance Parity" bill into law, because of the positive effect it will have on Virginia's economic development. He's right to tout the bill as a pro-business measure: For years, Virginia businesses and insurance companies have been lobbying for the freedom to make their own decisions about coverage. Of course, most of the legislators who voted against this bill belonged to the GOP. So we saw Democrats uniting with a handful of Republicans to promote economic freedom and development, while the majority of GOP legislators angrily dragged their heels and whined about morality.

We can expect to hear much weeping and gnashing of teeth from anti-Gay zealots, who have suffered their fourth legislative defeat in under a fortnight. In the long run, however, they'll be happy they lost this fight. Bigots can profit from greater economic freedom, just like their more tolerant Gay and Lesbian neighbors.

Hat tip: Equality Virginia.

Elyssa bleeds tonight! (Student production of Dido and Aeneas opens ...)

The University of Virginia students at Spectrum Theater are performing, producing and directing their very first opera, and they couldn't have picked a better one to start with. Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas is widely considered the first English opera. (There are other contenders, but this one holds up best for contemporary audiences.) The arias in Dido sit nicely with young voices; it's no surprise to learn that it was originally written for performance at a girls' school. Best of all, the work runs about an hour, so nobody's going to get overtaxed (including the audience).

In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that I was a chorus member in a production of Dido many years ago. Our director insisted that this opera was actually a "masque," which for him meant that everyone in the chorus had to wear a cheap, plastic Lone Ranger mask. The men wore black ones, and the women wore gold. But given the way the show went down, perhaps we should have worn paper bags instead.

We bombed, but at least we had a good excuse. Roughly three hours before curtain, the director took away our scores, and informed us that we would sing the opera from memory. From then on, we in the chorus were lost as geese. (The leads fared much better: They were informed.) I'd like to say this was the most humiliating moment of my life, or even one of the most humiliating. Alas, it's not even close. I have dozens of horror stories from the old days, when I acted onstage -- or tried to -- and occasionally sang in public. Now I attend plays and listen to music, then write silly reviews that hardly anyone ever reads. Trust me, it's better this way.

Tickets to Spectrum Theater's Dido and Aeneas are five bucks at the door; the venue is UVA's Garrett Hall; the production runs tonight through Sunday; and the show begins at eight.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Theater Reviews: The Dazzle, The Ives Have It

I might as well label this post "More Arts-Related News from Charlottesville." As anyone knows, arts coverage is painfully dull unless it comes from New York, at which point it becomes automatically fascinating. But Charlottesville is one of the best towns I've ever seen for live theater. Two shows finish their respective runs this Saturday, and since I've resolved to start plugging shows I like before they close, I've written a few reviews:

The Ives Have It: Love Among the Urbanites

College theater departments work at a distinct disadvantage: Schedules for the fall semester can be problematic, but the spring semester is just plain cruel. The last production of the year is almost always a large-scale musical, and falls quite naturally in mid-April. Student actors are at their peak; they've had plenty of time to rehearse their numbers and hone their craft. But what about the other one, the Midwinter Show, which falls in that no-man's land between the month-long hiatus of Winter Break and midterm exams?

The Midwinter Show is usually the neglected stepchild of a Drama Department season. Once the end-of-the-year spectacular sucks the university's talent pool dry, the "other show" of the season has to make do with a cast of second-stringers. The department's "assistant director" -- the one who hasn't yet acquired the clout to pick and choose his/her own projects -- rushes these poor kids through rehearsals in a few weeks. Sometimes the actors are barely "off book" by opening night. It's usually a Purgatory for everyone involved, including the audience.

With a witless name like The Ives Have It: An Evening of Courtship Comedies, the latest production from the University of Virginia Drama Department looks like a desperate attempt to throw something -- anything -- on the stage before Spring Break. (Which it may well be.) Yet this evening of one-act plays (or rather, "sketches") by David Ives contains some of the flat-out funniest writing to grace Charlottesville stages since -- well, since UVA staged Noel Coward's Private Lives last fall.

The evening's subject is heterosexual love in "Noo Yawk," with a special focus on uncertainties and frustrations. Granted, Woody Allen has beaten this particular horse nearly to death, but Ives breathes new life into the material with his postmodern sensibility. His best-known work, "Sure Thing," depicts a date in which absolutely everything goes wrong -- and everything goes right -- depending on which reality the characters happen to inhabit. In "Foreplay, or The Art of the Fugue," three couples play on a miniature golf course in three parallel universes. And in "The Philadelphia" (for me, the sharpest sketch of the evening), each character seems to inhabit a space-time continuum of his or her own. Most of these one-acters take place in multiple dimensions and/or alternate universes, a few play with the concept of mathematical permutations, and one even involves time travel.

In short, it's Saturday Night Live for sci-fi geeks.

It's also the perfect cure for a university's winter blahs. Since Ives's plays usually take place in restaurants, the actors tend to speak to each other while seated at a table. Blocking is minimal, even in the most active sketches: There are no fight scenes or dances to choreograph. Since most of Ives's plays run under fifteen minutes and feature only three or four actors, the director can rotate cast members so that no one actor has too many lines to learn, and even rehearse more than one scene at a time, should the need arise.

The only problem with this particular production is that UVA placed it in the cavernous Culbreth Theater, which is much too large a house for this delicate material. Director Richard Warner struggles to use the full stage to his advantage, but Ives doesn't give him much of an opportunity. It's the right show at the right time; it's just in the wrong house.

Still, the cast manages to have fun, and so do we. For the most part, the twentysomething actors play twentysomething urbanites, and since the characters are stock comic types (the grating career woman, the smug yuppie, the overrouged girl from "Joysee"), everyone relates to them instantly. Standouts in the UVA ensemble include Nate Patten, who can speak gibberish as if it were a second language; Peter Farrell, who is charismatic, creepy and hysterical at the same time; Beth Gervain, whose alternate-universe role-playing gives "Sure Thing" much of its sparkle; and Jaclyn DiLauro, who largely saves the overlong time-travel sketch "Long Ago and Far Away."

Like most anthologies, The Ives Have It is uneven, and the second half is much weaker than the first. By the evening's end, it seems pretty clear that Ives uses alternate universes and other mind-bending gimmickry because he can't create a three-dimensional character, and that he writes glorified sketch comedy because he can't sustain an action for more than a few minutes. By evening's end, the plays seem clever but hollow, like a collection of middling New Yorker cartoons. That said, Ives can be downright hilarious, and UVA's production more than does him justice.

The Ives Have It runs in UVA's Culbreth Theater through February 26. Tickets run anywhere from $6 for students to $12 for regular folk. For more information, click here.

The Dazzle

The title of The Dazzle does not refer to playwright Richard Greenberg's extravagant use of language, though it could. Like his earlier Three Days of Rain (which LiveArts obligingly staged last summer), Greenberg has peopled his stage with three epigram-spouting neurotics -- two males and one female. But The Dazzle is a different kind of drama. It's less sympathetic, more obviously dark, and occasionally quite frightening.

Greenberg tells a largely invented tale about the real-life Collyer brothers, notorious eccentrics from the first half of the 20th century, who accumulated some 136 tons of junk inside their decaying New York City mansion. Homer Collyer (played by Ray Nedzel) abandons a lucrative career as an attorney to become, in his words, "my brother's accountant." Langley Collyer (Cristan Keighley) is positively obsessed with objects, musical notes, or any facet of experience that he can cling to -- which doesn't bode well for his own career as a concert pianist. Into their lives enters Millie Ashmore (LiveArts veteran Fran Smith), a clever but not especially intelligent socialite who plans to marry Langley. The horrific and shattering conclusion of their love affair seems to send the Collyer brothers on a decades-long quest to collect as much junk as they can find. Which makes this play a set dresser's worst nightmare.

Fortunately, the Upstage space at LiveArts is quite small, which means that clutter comes easily, and the cast never manages to get lost in all the -- quite literal -- garbage. (For chronic allergy sufferers, I have only three words: Bring an inhaler.) All three actors give amazing performances: Nedzel provides an intense turn as Homer, Keighley dominates the play as Langley. The casting of Fran Smith as Ashmore seems a bit "off." She seems much too old for her part -- which is usually a bad thing. In this case, however, it works rather well.

Alas, Greenberg's grasp of character also feels "off" in this play -- considerably off, in a manner which often does not work at all. Although The Dazzle features only three characters, relationships between them seem unclear. It takes quite some time for audiences to realize that Homer is, in his way, every bit as obsessive as Langley -- and even so, Homer's character never comes into focus as Langley's does. Millie's presence in the second act is even more problematic, as Greenberg relies on what is now the hoariest of psychological cliches, childhood sexual abuse, to explain her descent into madness. Worst of all, I suspect, is Greenberg's attempt to attribute broader existential significance to the Collyers' mental illness: The "point" of the play, such as it is, feels condescending and trite.

This is not to say that The Dazzle is necessarily bad: Its language is rich and overwrought, the character of Langley is consistently fascinating, and the sudden shift from comedy to tragedy is brilliant and unexpected. But the play also has flaws, some of them serious. It's frequently excellent, yet it never quite coheres.

Still, LiveArts more than does Greenberg justice: Performances are excellent, and John Gibson's direction is brisk and assured. The technical highlight of this production is Grady Smith's set design, which opens up to reveal the mansion's impossible collection of bric-a-brac. The Dazzle is as close to "spectacular" as anything in the tiny Upstage Space will probably ever get -- although people allergic to dust and mold might claim it's closer to an ordeal.

The Dazzle runs at the LiveArts "Upstage Space" through February 26. Tickets are $10, which makes it the best entertainment bargain in town. For more information, click here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Fear and Loathing: Hunter S. Thompson

I don't think anyone will place Hunter S. Thompson in America's pantheon of great writers. His brand of "gonzo journalism" was simply a variation on that oldest of journalistic practices, first-person reportage. Most of his books are marred by fatal self-indulgence; few have anything noteworthy to say to us. Yet his second and most famous book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, has survived the slings and arrows of critics -- indeed, it has survived Thompson's worst excesses as a writer -- to stand as an uncommonly trenchant memoir.

People who attribute to Thompson the navel-gazing qualities of the Boomer generation forget he was born during the Depression, in the decidedly "square" city of Louisville, Kentucky. In a way, it's easy to confuse Thompson with all the hip boomers and post-boomers who read and misunderstood him. His greatest popular successes came in the early 1970s, nearly a decade after Tom Wolfe had established the so-called "New Journalism" (which was basically old journalism tricked out with a literary pedigree). Rebellious youth of all ages were the most obvious audience for Thompson's rat-a-tat prose, freewheeling lifestyle and reckless invective. But Thompson was never quite one of the boomers; he was always slightly out of time, alienated from the cultural changes around him.

Unlike his young readers, who allegedly used psychedelic hallucinogens to open the elusive "doors of perception," he took drugs to close those doors and lock them tight. His epigraph to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was Samuel Johnson's famous statement, "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man." The pain of it, indeed. Tennessee Williams would have seen in Thompson a fellow Southern decadent. Like Brick, the alcoholic ex-football player in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Thompson drank (snorted, popped, swallowed, etc.) because he perceived all too keenly that the world was just too damned cruel, and the only remedy was to drug himself into a stupor. It was all a grand Romantic pose, a sort of masculinist variation on the neuraesthenic Southern belle. But a Southern belle would never have admitted to the "gonzo journalist's" violent, unsparing visions.

One of Thompson's favorite (and much overused) adjectives was "depraved," and his insistence on innate human depravity could make even die-hard Calvinists sick with horror. For Americans, the depth of "fear and loathing" in his prose still shocks after more than three decades. Even American conservatives, who tend to believe that humanity is a lousy lot, tend to make an exception for our own shining city on a hill. In contrast, Thompson seemed to regard America as no more or less depraved than the rest of the world. He found a perfect embodiment of wretched excess in Las Vegas, a Sin City more or less begging for its Jeremiah. Thompson's description of a family-friendly Vegas casino as "what the whole hep world would be doing on Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war" is typical of his invective. He describes various midway games as a sex-crazed, almost satanic ritual: "Shoot the pasties off the nipples of a ten-foot bulldyke and win a cotton-candy goat."

His attack on journalism (and journalists) is even more scabrous, full of brimstone and fury:

The press is a gang of cruel faggots. Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits -- a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.

It's hardly surprising to find that the ultimate object of Thompson's much-vaunted "fear and loathing" is Thompson himself. Ralph Steadman's illustrations for the book depict him as a wrinkled little man in a safari hat, creeping about on tiptoe as mind-shattering medication dribbles out of his suitcase. One could almost imagine Thompson leaving a trail of drugs behind him: The sad, aging fart Steadman drew could find his way back home, perhaps, if he could manage to follow all the stoned little birdies that ate his crumbs. It was another misdirection; Thompson was hardly old at the time. When Fear and Loathing was first published (in the glory days of Rolling Stone magazine), he was all of thirty-four.

Yet the spattered-ink drawing has some degree of truth to it. What makes this book breathe -- and what sets it apart from the rest of Thompson's oeuvre -- is its fresh, angry articulation of a mid-life crisis. Thompson's previous book, an inside look at the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang, had a young man's perspective, and more importantly, a young man's optimism. By the time he wrote Fear and Loathing, that optimism had collapsed, and something far more cynical had taken its place: a premature middle age, a sort of personal and political malaise. In a mournful passage that most of the book's admirers overlook, Thompson writes:

There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning ....

And that, I think, was the handle -- that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply
prevail. There was no point in fighting -- on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave ....

So now, less than five years later, you can go up a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eye you can almost
see the high-water mark -- that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

Most men who see their youthful idealism rolling back into the sea make some last-ditch attempt to regain it: They divorce the wife, buy a shiny red sportscar, join and/or start checking out New Age religions, for instance. Thompson took his own nihilstic crisis to its logical extreme, wallowing in drugs, paranoia, anti-Americanism and self-loathing inside his Las Vegas hotel room. Despite his insistence in the closing lines of Fear and Loathing that he was "just sick enough to be totally confident," he never really found a way out of his crisis, or out of that little room. Not for him was Wordsworth's adage, "We will grieve not, rather find / Strength in what remains behind." When faith failed, all Thompson could see was its spectacular implosion.

So he sounded his note of bitter grief for a third of a century. Nixon, whose crises of self-confidence reflected Thompson's own (albeit on a grander, more tragic scale), was in his eyes the man who killed the Sixties, the embodiment if not quite the source of all things evil. The so-called "Generation X," which tried to navigate the cultural chaos young baby boomers had left in their wake, was merely a "Generation of Swine" to him. Eventually Thompson would release a few fictional works, and though a few critics tried to be kind to The Rum Diary and Screwjack, most of them admitted that these were pretty embarrassing. They didn't even rate as juvenalia.

None of this mattered. The kids whom Thompson called "swine" kept buying, reading and misunderstanding his one good book, which provided the author with sufficient residuals to retire to his Colorado compound. From there, the rest is outlandish rumor and speculation. You would hear that Thompson routinely woke up at four in the afternoon and drank himself into a stupor. He would give lectures with a fifth of bourbon, and when he finished the bottle or passed out, it meant that the lecture was over. Thompson hated Bill Murray's portrayal of him in the film Where the Buffalo Roam, and threatened to strangle the comic with his bare hands. Johnny Depp claimed that before he played Thompson in Terry Gilliam's adaptation of Fear and Loathing, he visited the man at his home, and the two of them fired bullets into explosive butane tanks. (The neighbors must have loved that.) On rare occasions, Thompson's garbled mutter would emerge from the mountains, and it would usually have something to do with swine and depravity. But the world had long since stopped listening.

Early this week, Thompson took his own life. By all accounts, he was suffering from back pains and other bodily ailments. One imagines the decades of alcohol and drug abuse were finally taking their toll. Perhaps we can say, after Dr. Johnson, that Thompson finally rid himself of the pain of being a man. Perhaps the oblivion to which he so long aspired, is his at last.

Monday, February 21, 2005

How to Screw Up the "Moral Politics" Test

Several of my friends in the blogosphere, including Bilious Young Fogey and Alan Sullivan, have recently spent time at a nifty little website which purports to offer a "moral politics" test. They've been shocked at their test results: Sullivan and Fogey were informed that the American politician they most resembled was Bill Clinton, while one conservative who took this test was informed that he was in league with Jimmy Carter. Of all my friends, I was the only one who came out as an "authentic" conservative, with Ronald Reagan as my patron saint.

Is it possible, then, that all my conservative friends are secret liberals -- or worse, closeted leftists? Of course not, gentle reader. So let's dispense with the usual gasps and shocks, and go straight to what this survey gets wrong.

According to this survey, politics and morality are closely related. If you respond that you believe poverty is bad, the test presumes you want government to take care of it. If you want individual initiative to be rewarded, the test assumes you want government to take care of that, too. If you're believe that people are generally a depraved lot, then you must want government to nudge them toward better behavior, right? But if you believe that government should remain small because the people who run that government will be just as depraved as the rest of us, or if you think that government doesn't have to reward individual initiative because the market already does -- well, the survey isn't going to reflect what you really think.

Most limited-government conservatives that I know, including myself, don't believe that politics and morality are related. We tend to believe that morality is an individual concern, while politics is governmental and collective. Since what is good for "the people" is usually bad for individual persons who have to pay for it, you might say that we believe politics is opposed to personal morality, not allied with it. So while we may be as upstanding and socially engaged as any fundamentalist or socialist (which might not necessarily be a compliment), we disagree with the idea that government is the only way -- or even a good way -- to achieve a better society.

When you realize that morality and politics might go together like pop rocks and Mountain Dew, you start to think that maybe you, and not government, should be the one who acts morally. This would explain why those heartless conservatives in the heartland, people who loathe the welfare state and want to do away with public housing, will donate generously to organizations like the Salvation Army and the United Way which provide financial assistance and housing to the destitute. It's pretty clear that these conservatives don't want other people to live in abject poverty; indeed, they will often tell you that all people deserve an equal chance in the world, and that poverty among abundant wealth should spur us all to action. In terms of their personal morality, they closely resemble their left-liberal brethren. But their political perspective is radically different, because they believe that government should not get involved in these moral affairs. (Some of these heartland folks might not appreciate what you or I do in our respective bedrooms, however. Let's face it: We conservatives aren't always consistent on that whole individual-liberty thing.)

Left-liberals and hardline theocons often hold the belief that we limited-government conservatives are immoral, or at least amoral, because we don't believe that government should be used to advance somebody's morality. But that conclusion is simple-minded, to say the least. Government isn't the sole operative in society: Individuals, private organizations and corporations also work to achieve these moral goals, and they often meet with greater success. Churches run soup kitchens and homeless shelters, which do more to relieve the everyday hardships of homelessness than public housing can. Bill Gates's Internet initiative for local libraries has given everyone access to the Web, regardless of income or social standing. And a family's instruction can have a more profound effect on a child's morality than any government-mandated "values education" program.

So if you're a limited-government conservative who holds socially left-wing moral beliefs, the "Moral Politics" test is going to screw with your mind a bit. The good news is, you're perfectly free to screw it right back. The two-question "short test" should give you an idea of the test itself. The first one asks you if people are generally good or bad, which determines your place on the "Moral Order" axis; the second asks whether you think it's better to help yourself or help others, which puts you on the "Moral Actions" axis. The sixteen-question "long test" is a bigger version of the same game: It's social issues on the one axis, and economics on the other, with varying degrees of governmental involvement in each. At the end of the game, your ideological position is pinpointed on a two-dimensional graph. You can even see how few of the test results actually agree with yours, and which recent US President you're least likely to disagree with.

By manipulating the way I answered the survey's questions, I offered a passable imitation of just about anyone on the "moral politics" spectrum, from raving Communist to ranting theocrat. You can, too. If you believe that people are generally okay and God doesn't exist, and you're not afraid of sounding a bit selfish when you answer your questions, you're going to wind up as a "Bill Clinton" Liberal. (That Bill Clinton was not a liberal in any classical sense is beside the point.) If you say that people are okay and you want to make the world a better place, you're a Socialist with Jimmy Carter, even if you happen to disagree with Carter's actual socialism. If you say that people are generally lousy, some racism is justifiable, and cultural relativism is bunk, yet you maintain that you'd like to make the world a better place -- well, congratulations, because the survey says you're a Fascist. I got my "Ronald Reagan" Conservative street creds by answering the survey's economic questions like an Objectivist bastard, and the personal questions like a fuzzy-headed Calvinist.

Still, wherever you put those little dots, they won't match my position, which is literally "off the chart." In the real world, which is also off that chart, the very idea of "moral politics" makes about as much sense as "doggie heaven." Governments cannot be "moral" or "immoral," any more than dogs, cats, or multinational corporations can be. These creatures are not sentient; they lack the ability to make independent decisions; they cannot weigh the risks and benefits of their actions. Those attributes -- and the moral sense which accompanies them -- belong uniquely to human beings. We can be good, evil, or indifferent, as we choose to be. Governments, like animals, can merely act.

Bottom line: Screw with the "Moral Politics" test all you like. The questions aren't always well-phrased, but they're reasonably transparent. It's fun to try a little political role playing, and mess with the results a bit. But don't assume this survey has anything to tell you about your own political ideals, or about politics in general. If you're looking for insight, try this quiz instead.

Update (2/23): As several loyal readers noticed, I was looking for something like the "World's Smallest Political Quiz," which records your response to eight neutral statements, then maps your position on the political spectrum. The extended version I found seemed less transparent and propagandistic than the other Web versions (which might say quite a lot about those other versions). Luckily, Alan Sullivan knows a much better "politics test," which you can take by clicking here.

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