But first . . .

From last Thursday’s New York Times: ‘If there are more than a couple of sites you check regularly, QuickBrowse will make your day. It’s one of a new breed of metabrowsers that combine your favorite sites onto one long page for quick viewing.’

Long-time readers will know the QuickBrowse story. Yes, we’re still here, and next Monday we begin charging $12.95 per quarter. As frugal as anyone else, I’d say you should only pay if it saves you enough time/hassle to be worth $1 a week. I value my own time at $12 an hour, so it would have to save me 5 minutes a week to be worth the cost. If I were an electrician billing at $60 an hour, it would have to save me a minute a week to be worth the cost. Of course, it’s also cool, which is worth something all by itself.

And now . . .

Here’s the problem with the missile shield. Let’s say it works perfectly. Five hundred billion dollars later, the thing’s a miracle. It knocks missiles out of the sky all but instantly . . . can pick out the warhead from amongst hundreds of decoys . . . rarely takes out a 747 or a satellite launch by mistake – in short, makes us untouchable.

I don’t think that’s likely, and $500 billion is a vast sum to take from combating other threats, like the threat of your dying-or-suffering-or-going-to-bed-hungry because you can’t afford the prescription drugs you need. But at least you won’t get nuked by a rogue state. (Suppress thoughts of Idaho; I’m thinking Iraq here.)

Yet forget all that. Let’s just assume the missile shield makes us untouchable.

That’s the problem, and you need only think back to your childhood to see it. It’s the same problem any kid faces when he is invulnerable. ‘You can’t touch me, nyah, nanny, nyah, nyah.’ Remember that kid? That is a kid who will be despised. That is a kid the other kids will spend a great deal of time finding ways to bring down – if not now, when they get older.

There may be a way, ultimately, to get world agreement on the importance of installing some mechanism to take down missiles launched from specific areas, or directed at major cities, worldwide.

But as long as it’s unilateral, it taunts. It inspires people to like us less, and to find ingenious ways to end our domination. Like hacking into our electronic funds transfer system, bringing world commerce to a halt. Or . . . well, you know the litany. The bomb in the garage of the World Trade Center – only nuclear.

Better, perhaps, to go light on the missile defense shield for a while – funding some more research but not pushing too hard – and use the money we save for something else? A Marshall Plan for the Developing World? That could strengthen economies and democracy and maybe even win us some friends.


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