The U.S. Navy and a giant defense contractor are asking mom and dad for money to build an ultra-wicked laser death ray, because otherwise it's impossible to stop pirate ships. At last, the historic invincibility of pirate ships is over!

The military-industrial complex has been trying to make killer lasers at least since Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" Strategic Defense Initiative of the 1980s. The unproven, ridiculously-expensive technology was later tested against ground targets. And now, maybe pirates.

Northrop Grumman and the Navy want $98 million just to test a laser for warning away suspicious boats — including pirates, ooo — and even melting their engines.

The Pirate Menace has become the hot new way of selling weapons systems; a defense-industry consultant recently floated the absurd argument that the cancelled F-22 air-to-air fighter would be awesome against pirates.

But the Navy has about a trillion other ways of destroying pirate ships, other than with pricey lasers:

Phalanx: A radar-aimed Gatling gun originally designed to shoot down missiles, it has been adapted to work against small ships and is widely deployed.

Basic cannons: The preferred method for killing pirate ships since forever. Basically all Navy combat ships still have at least one; on Ticonderoga class cruisers it's this Mark 45 five-inch gun.

Chain gun: The 25mm M242 Bushmaster machine gun has been mounted on everything from the Apache helicopter to the M2 Bradley infrantry fighting vehicle. The Navy version includes an infrared scope for night operations and a laser rangefinder.

Harpoon anti-ship missile: Intended for use over long ranges, the missile was recently adapted for use in shoreline areas.

So the Navy has all of these toys at its disposal already. There are two land-based insurgency wars ongoing, which have killed thousands of ground troops. There's a massive recession. And the high command is asking for a super sea laser, to kill pirates. Someone needs to walk the plank, just for thinking about asking for this bullshit.