Campaign '08

That’s an expensive overhead projector

The closest thing to space in last night’s debate was this quip by John McCain criticizing what he considered to be Barack Obama’s big-spending ways:

He voted for nearly a billion dollars in pork barrel earmark projects, including, by the way, $3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Illinois. My friends, do we need to spend that kind of money?

$3 million does sound pretty pricey for an overhead projector: can’t you pick up one of those pretty much for free, collecting dust in a corner of a classroom or office, having been passed over in favor of more modern computer projectors? Well, the “overhead projector” that Obama sought funding for was a little more sophisticated than that:

Adler Planetarium, to support replacement of its projector and related equipment, $3,000,000

One of its most popular attractions and teaching tools at the Adler Planetarium is the Sky Theater. The projection equipment in this theater is 40 years old, and is no longer supported with parts or service by the manufacturer. It has begun to fail, leaving the theater dark and groups of school students and other interested museum-goers without this very valuable and exciting learning experience.

So was Obama expressing his interest in science and education by seeking the money, or was he trying to reward some campaign donors who serve on the planetarium’s board of trustees, as some allege? For the planetarium, at least, it’s a moot point: the funding didn’t come through.

22 comments to That’s an expensive overhead projector

  • [...] I expected, Space Politics had the details on that $3 million “overhead projector” McCain mentioned in last night’s [...]

  • Melos

    For the record…
    It was $300K NOT $3MIL!

    And it wasn’t for an overhead projector!
    The money was “requested” to replace the “VERY OLD”
    Zeiss projector for the “Sky Shows”!

    One of the main attractions people come to the
    planetarium to see!!!
    Without it the planetarium would go under.

    And Adler is one the nation’s oldest planetarium…
    it opened in 1930!!!!!!

  • Mark Daymont

    Well, Adler has done very well to have a digital sky theater as well as the older Zeiss projector theater. They’ve managed to raise plenty of money before for their Sky Pavillion and a IMAX-like theater as well. All of these cost way more than a replacement for the old beloved Zeiss projector.

    Here in Salt Lake City, our Clarke Planetarium does fairly well doing its sky shows in the Digistar Theater as well as its premier space shows. No extra theater necessary for the skyshows.

    While I will admit a star projector can make a better star point than a digital projection, I would still balk at having my Federal tax dollars go towards Adler’s wanted but not absolutely needed projector replacement. Or shall we consider using Federal tax funds to be used for all planetariums, to make it fair?

  • JavaKat

    If you can’t buy parts for it, anymore, then it’s a trifle out-dated. So what happens the next time it breaks and you can’t rig up a way to fix it? Tell all the schools to cancel their program? I agree that it should be funded. Unlike the money that AIG got, it won’t be spent on trip, it will be spent to help educate people. And, education money is seldom misspent. If you’re really interested in what people are saying about topics like this, you might try PoliticalSlavery.com. They seem to know what they’re talking about and have the references to back up what they say.

  • Mark Daymont

    I’ve worked in the education field and science teaching for 18 years, and I can fully assure you that educational money is often misspent.

    I can also assure you that I believe spending it on education is a good idea. I can additionally assure you I’m a big fan of planetariums, having been a member of the International Planetarium Society and current Starlab user.

    But we’re talking Federal tax dollars here. Let the Adler throw some more fundraising events, they’re very good at it. Or let them get some state grants. Despite the current economic news, there are many opportunities for fundraising for a well established name like Adler.

  • 42Orders

    But we’re talking Federal tax dollars here.

    There are no words in the English language which adequately describe the depths of your delusions. Fortunately we have enough SI prefixes to continue to quantify it for a while yet.

  • Mark Richards

    If we can spend 10 billion dollars a month in Iraq making new enemies, we should be able to come up with 3 million dollars to EDUCATE OUR CHILDREN. What the hell is wrong with this country? It’s ok to spend money on our military, which seems to spend more time getting into wars in countries people can’t find on a map, but spending money on alternative energy or education- nah, we don’t want that.

  • 42Orders

    What the hell is wrong with this country?

    In a word : television.

    If you allow multiple words and catch phrases, you could add things like the main stream media, professional sports, NASCAR, and organized religion.

  • chicago

    I agree with Javakat, I don’t want my federal tax dollars spent at a Planetarium thta charges childern for entrance, and also holds fund raisers that are supposed to be for such item’s.

  • 42Orders

    I don’t want my federal tax dollars spent at a Planetarium

    But you’re totally ok with giving $trillions of your tax dollars away for wars, war profiteers, banks and wealthy bank executives. Soon the banks will be nationalized just like your esteemed and worthy wars. I myself have no problem with going the extra distance to nationalize a planetarium projector.

  • [...] Space Politics: That’s one expensive overhead projector [...]

  • [...] Wired: Besides, as space politics blogger Jeff Foust points out, the point is moot as far as the planetarium is concerned because the spending wasn’t [...]

  • Mark Daymont

    42Orders,
    Who are you to assume anything about me or any other commenter? The subject matter was only about earmark spending for the Adler projector. If I or someone else states a personal opinion about federal tax money being used for that project, it’s just our opinion. Where were the comments about “wars, war profiteers, banks and wealthy bank executives”? Apparently only in your mind.

    Spewing venom does you no credit.

  • 42Orders

    Who are you to assume anything about me or any other commenter?

    An outraged American. The fact that you even made that comment reveals delusions so deep, so perverse, and so pervasive, that they can’t be cured.

  • Chance

    Its probably Elifritz trolling again. Just ignore him.

  • 42Orders

    Just ignore him.

    Denial is a river in Iraq.

  • Vladislaw

    Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said: “I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization.”

    I feel the same way. Does a tax and the subsequent spending; local, state, federal, accomplish that? That is my benchmark and funding a planetarium that will educate MILLIONS over its 20-30 year lifetime, in my opinion, passes the bar.

    On earmarks, that was, is, and always will be, nothing more then a red herring. 18 billion dollars of earmarks on a 500 billion dollar deficit is a non arguement.

    In 100 years at 18 billion a year would not even match how much regan added to the national debt in just 8 years and it would take 300 years of 18 billion per year earmarks at that rate to reach the 5 trillion another republican managed to add to the national debt in just 8 years.

    So get off the red herring arguement that somehow the 11 trillion dollar national debt is the fault of earmarks.

  • 42Orders

    the … argument that somehow the 11 trillion dollar national debt is the fault of earmarks.

    They can’t help it. They’re profoundly delusional.

    They do not comprehend the importance of science to rational governance.

  • Mark Daymont

    If we need federal tax dollars to help planetariums, then make it for a national program for many planetariums instead of just one. I’d be for that.

    Or better yet, why not use some of that 18 billion in earmarks mentioned by Vladislaw to increase the budget for NASA? They could sure use that right now.

  • Vladislaw

    Obama said he would cut HALF of the 18 billion dollars in federal earmarks. Let’s kill two birds with one stone ( dont you just love cliches?)

    Phase I

    24 american companies get 250 million

    Phase II

    12 companies get 500 million

    Phase III

    6 companies get 1 billion

    To build a LEO manned system to the ISS and other LEO stations.

    for one year of earmarks america gets a few companies doing manned launches and NASA astronauts can just buy a ticket.

    The word Handicapped comes from the the old english word “handy capper” a begger who was handy with the cap asking for a handout.

    When the shuttle stops flying

  • Vladislaw

    Obama said he would cut HALF of the 18 billion dollars in federal earmarks. Let’s kill two birds with one stone ( dont you just love cliches?)

    Phase I

    24 american companies get 250 million

    Phase II

    12 companies get 500 million

    Phase III

    6 companies get 1 billion

    To build a LEO manned system to the ISS and other LEO stations.

    for one year of earmarks america gets a few companies doing manned launches and NASA astronauts can just buy a ticket.

    The word Handicapped comes from the the old english word “handy capper” a begger who was handy with the cap asking for a handout. I wonder if it was a republican who came up with the politically correct term “handicapped”

    When the shuttle stops flying America becomes “handicapped”
    a sad statement of the times we live in.

  • Britton858

    The Adler Planetarium is a beautiful, historic place to learn about science and get kids involved and interested in technology. I visited last time I was in Chicago and it was my favorite attraction. As a child I loved going to planetariums and now I am an engineer at Johnson Space Center. Funding should be spent on teaching and planetariums interest children.

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