McCain's planetariophobia

By Phil Plait | October 8, 2008 4:21 pm

So a little while back, John McCain made an ill-advised crack about planetaria (that’s the plural of planetarium), calling them "foolishness". It was ill advised because it raised the hackles of lots of science-loving folks, including those who want to — gasp, horror! — educate kids about astronomy and science.

At the time I suspected it was just a wedge in which to attack Barack Obama, but his use of the word foolishness really caught my attention. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but does he really dislike such things?

Well, last night removed any doubt, when McCain — twice — used Obama’s requested earmark of three million dollars for Adler planetarium as a bludgeon, trying to pin Obama as another pork-barrel politician. He disdainfully said the money was for an "overhead projector". Those are his exact words. Here’s what he said:

While we were working to eliminate these pork barrel earmarks he [Senator Obama, or "that one"] voted for nearly $1 billion in pork barrel earmark projects. Including $3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Illinois. My friends, do we need to spend that kind of money?

Well, shock of shocks — it turns out McCain’s characterization of this was all wrong. In fact, I would call it a lie. He knows it wasn’t for an overhead projector, a piece of classroom equipment that costs a couple of hundred dollars. That money was for Adler’s Zeiss Mark VI star projector: a venerable piece of precision fabricated equipment that projects the stars, constellations, and other objects inside the planetarium dome. Adler’s Zeiss is 40 years old, and desperately needs replacing. These machines are pricey, and replacing them difficult.

Adler needed money to do this. They asked local politicians, and eventually were able to get a request in a budget submitted by Obama. However, Obama never even voted on that budget, and Adler never got that money — thus making, again, McCain a liar.

Needless to say, Adler wasn’t thrilled with this characterization of their beloved Zeiss. They issued a statement to that effect. You can also get opinions all over the place: Universe Today, SpaceWriter, Davin Flateau, Discovery Space, Wonkette, the Chicago Tribune, even NPR.

I have posted about this before (just last night, in fact). The comments on my statements have been all over the place, from support to some fairly ridiculous complaints. My favorites have involved something along the line of, "Where in the Constitution does it say the federal government has to send money to planetaria?"

Good question. But where does it say the government will repair roads, provide clean water, create public schools, fund the space program?

Look: there are some things the government does for the greater good. This is where libertarians and I part company. Government isn’t always bad. In many cases, it takes the money it gets in taxes and does fantastic things with it, like sending probes to Mercury and funding autism research. It makes the roads drivable, and makes sure companies don’t pollute our air (well, it used to do that). You can complain all you want that earmarks get abused — and they certainly do — but they also get used to fund projects that are starved for cash, and that richly deserve to have life breathed into them.

I disagree with McCain here as well. He wants no earmarks at all. I think that’s ridiculous. It would be far better to have regulation of them, instead of the laissez-faire attitude the government has now. Or, if not overt regulation, some sort of throttle on them, instead of them being free passes to bridges to nowhere.

And finally, I want to reiterate what I said in my first post on this topic: I love planetaria. Love love love. They educate kids. That is among the finest and most honorable goals anyone can have. People who work at planetaria across the country and the world do it because they love it. They don’t get rich doing it, they don’t get fame doing it, they hardly even get accolades doing it. But we owe so much to them! Kids learn in planetaria– and not just about the stars over their heads on a given night; planetaria are evolving into the digital age, bringing incredible programs to the public (I know what I’m talking about here). And it’s not even just astronomy. The projectors can give all kinds of lessons: biology, history, local lore… anything you can create digitally can be projected in a planetarium, and kids can learn.

For McCain to use this as a political zinger is insulting, and for him to call it foolishness is beyond the pale. The honorable thing for him to do now is to admit he was wrong, admit he mischaracterized both the planetarium and Obama’s stance, and then issue a public apology to planetarians and science-lovers across the country.

The next debate is in one week. I bet a lot more pro-science folks will be watching, too. Closely.

Comments (302)

Links to this Post

  1. Dave Ex Machina - A Thousand Points of Articulation » My Friends | October 8, 2008
  2. Negligible Knowledge Base | October 9, 2008
  3. About that planetarium… « The Planetologist | October 9, 2008
  4. Live-Writing the Presidential Debate #2 « Robot Pirate Ninja | October 9, 2008
  5. President McCain means stone-age USA? « Our Universe: The Earth and Beyond | October 9, 2008
  6. Overhead Projector, my Ass at I Think I Need a Shoehorn | October 9, 2008
  7. John McCain’s Planetarium Problem | October 9, 2008
  8. occasional fish » Politics as (un)usual | October 9, 2008
  9. Populär Astronomi - » Alla talar om planetarier (tack vare John McCain) | October 10, 2008
  10. This Week In Conservatism | Bloggers For Change | October 11, 2008
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  12. This Week In Conservatism | PoliticsMuch.com | October 11, 2008
  13. Projector vs. Projector « Robot Pirate Ninja | October 12, 2008
  14. Make McCain see stars | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine | October 15, 2008
  15. Repost: McCain’s planetariophobia | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine | October 16, 2008
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  17. /var/log » Blog Archive » The last thing you need… | October 25, 2008
  18. Problems with Palin - Page 11 - Science Forums | October 26, 2008
  19. Stars, Bears, and Flies « The Liquid Thinker | October 29, 2008
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  22. Is Conservatism Less Compatible With Science Than Religion? « Camels With Hammers | October 10, 2009
  23. Planetarium Madness « One Astronomer's Noise | January 9, 2011
  1. Jeremy

    This should really be getting some media play, if not via the media actually [i]doing its job[/i] then at least by the Obama campaign. McCain essentially got up in front of a national audience and declared that spending on science education was wasteful foolishness. That’s… incomprehensible.

  2. Sigh,

    I noticed that one too Phil. Me and Swoopy both tried hard not to yell something bad at the TV while my wife was reading. :|

  3. Bill Hazlett

    As a frequent visitor to the Ward Beecher Planetarium on the campus of Youngstown State University in Youngstown OH, I was appalled at McCain’s terminology of a star projector as an “overhead” projector. Ward Beecher Planetarium replaced it’s 1960′s era star projector two years ago with a new Chronos star projector. Along with a total remodeling of the planetarium it is a miraculous difference. If I had been an undecided voter, this would have sealed the deal for me. Obama would be my candidate. I’m 55 years old and a late comer to the Planetarium experience. I learn something new every weekend about our universe. Heck, just knowing which stars are where is amazing to me. Three years ago the only Sirius I knew was a satellite radio company. Now I check out the brightest star in the sky every night with my binoculars. Shame on you, John McCain.

  4. Rabor

    Where is the outrage over Obama’s support of Surbanes-Oxeley which has been destructive to the capital markets that fund all the private science innovation? What about tax rate policy and the effect it has on investment in the private sector?

    Why is it only anti-science when it’s about the government funding or not funding something other than taking a broad look at how one’s policies will effect all science?

    I guess it’s much easier to just focus on one narrow project and conflate, instead of doing the research. Kind of like, oh, I dunno, what McCain and Obama did last night.

  5. Davidlpf

    If there is 700 billon to bail out the banks 3 millions is change in comparison. Don’t complain about funding for bridges, there is still their half bridge between New Brunswick and Maine they have to build.(I know the bridge that you are commenting on is in Alaska.)

  6. Windyshrimp

    Also why I split from some libertarians.. There needs to be a party that is a mixture of democrat and libertarian. Because both of them lean too far, one regulates too much and the other doesn’t regulate at all. Just I like them both socially, but economicaly, they both suck. It is hard to decide, this is why it is hard for me to vote, sir.

  7. How is it that someone like McCain manages to get such a following in the first place? I’m not a US citizen, or even a resident, but I find many people around me watching this and the concern for the world should he be voted in isn’t insignificant.

  8. I’d have gone in to science anyhow, and as it turned out not to be astronomy that I (normally) get paid for, I suppose my own little universe would have survived the Adler Planetarium having been McCain’ed. But the reality is that I did go, with school groups, with friend, solo, and, as I got older, with my daughter, to the Adler Planetarium. Repeat also for Aquaria, musea, and so on.

    I don’t think we need more scientists, but we absolutely need more people who know about science, including what it can and can’t do. Planetaria, et al., are excellent things for that. Calling planetaria foolishness, well, that sends me a strong signal of where science and scientists would stand in his administration.

  9. Whether or not a planetarium is a good thing to have around is a completely different question from whether the federal government should be spending money on it. It shouldn’t. Let the state or city handle it — or even better, let the place operate as a business and get its capital expenditures from its own profits.

    And the argument that we’re already spending hundreds of billions of dollars on even more worthless projects doesn’t cut it — that’s like the 500 pound man saying, “What’s one more twinky?”

  10. Mig

    McCain is right — science and education are stupid! Science claims that heavier-than-air objects can be made to fly. No one is more aware than Maverick how dangerously ridiculous that is. Sure, they can be made to work, but when those infernal flying contraptions chose to fall out of the sky 1) the ground can hurt you and, 2) they can put you right into the waiting arms of people from “nations that don’t like us too much”.

    Sorry kiddies, Science just isn’t worth the risk. Go watch TV.

  11. Bigfoot

    IMO we need to do away with (political) parties altogether — but I digress. I wonder if McCain has never been to a planetarium? Maybe he truly is ignorant.

    Can anyone forget the sense of awe they felt the first time they sat down in a planetarium and the lights faded out and they found themselves sitting in the middle of a perfect, vivid star-filled night sky? Few things will open up the mind for learning like that experience. Perhaps nothing.

  12. I agree with you completely, Phil. I had the exact same sentiments when watching this. If a planetarium projector for Alder is the worst “pork” that Obama’s pushed, then I say we give him complete control over the federal budget until the end of time. I’ve wasted far larger portions of my own personal budget on much worse things annually.

    I was watching the debate on CNN and was happy to see that the independents watching the debate didn’t give McCain any love at all for his planetarium comments. It gives me a little more faith in my fellow Americans.

  13. You give McCain too much credit. What makes you think he knows the difference between a Zeiss projector and an overhead projector?

  14. This statement and his continued complaint about a bear study in Montana show that he is appealing to ignorance in his campaign.

  15. Philip

    Libertarians? Someone needs to be as frank about the far right and the libertarians as they themselves are (but more erroneously, IMO) about the far left: what we’re really talking about are the “social darwinists” vs. the “socialists”.

    And I’m on the left (but moderately) because I find it hard to be comfortable while others are caught in cycle of poverty and poor education. But, hey, that’s just me. I happen to think that Michelle Obama is right: some Americans ARE “mean.” Libertarians and neocons are two good examples.

  16. Bigfoot

    @Robert Grumbine, why don’t we need more scientists? Or at least desire them?

    I think we would be far better off as a society if we took just 10% of our collective entertainment budgets and diverted the funds to science. This is just a wild guess, but I’m guessing that would about double our science resources, which in turn would accelerate the growth of our knowledge of reality.

    Perhaps we would be more enlightened about energy generation and/or usage by now. Or be able to effectively prevent or treat common types of cancer. Or, perhaps most unlikely but certainly most important, have a population that knows and cares as much about general science as they do about Britney’s last visit to rehab.

    Who knows how much more knowledge we might have had we started doing this 50 years ago?

  17. Is a Zeiss still the most cost-effective way of projecting stars on a domed ceiling here in the 21st century?

  18. Daffy

    Sean O’Hara,

    Most of the technology you use in your life is a direct or indirect result of investment by federal government…so either stop using it, or stop whining about it. Anything else is hypocritical.

    Oversight is good…Libertarian dogma is nonsense.

  19. Brian Engler

    Some institutions–notably those devoted to public education–cannot simply “operate as a business” and pay for themselves. Included among these are museums, libraries, and, yes, planetaria. I spent many hours in my youth at the Fels Planetarium in Philadelphia–as well as at the many science and art museums and the fabulous public library nearby. Not all of these were free, but admission fees were kept low, and as a result we curious kids could frequent them and learn so much more than we did through school alone. I’m sure some fee-based income, and some local, perhaps even state, funding was involved, but the federal government takes the biggest share of our incomes and therefore has the largest amount of money to spend on worthwhile educational programs. And these programs can contribute to those curious kids excelling in school and in careers that, in turn, generate more tax dollars to promote science education for future generations.

  20. Jose

    @Rabor
    Am I missing something here? Are we talking about the anti-corruption Sarbanes-Oxley Act which McCain voted for 2 years before Obama was in the senate?

  21. Someone needs to be as frank about the far right and the libertarians as they themselves are (but more erroneously, IMO) about the far left: what we’re really talking about are the “social darwinists” vs. the “socialists”.

    A) Libertarians are not even remotely tantamount to the “far right.”

    B) You are right, though not in the way you mean — the equation of libertarianism with Social Darwinism is as grossly ignorant as the equation of liberals with socialists.

  22. Most of the technology you use in your life is a direct or indirect result of investment by federal government…

    As they say on Wikipedia, CITATION NEEDED.

  23. Phil, we’re on the same wavelength here. I thought about going into the same territory, but my own blog posts were getting lengthy enough as it was!

    Lab lemming: Zeiss is still a good way to show stars, and coupled with a fulldome video system, you can do amazing things.

    You can be as plain or fancy with your fulldome technology as your budget and facility allows — and I’ve seen all kinds of combinations of technology in theaters.

    Bottom line is that planetarium/science center facilities are among the “good” things that our tax dollars go for, and in the world of the “commons” they are priceless.

  24. Obama opened this purchase up to justified criticism by making it an earmark. That means it skipped the normal vetting process that is used for legitimate government spending.

    Had Obama used the correct appropriations procedures then there would be no criticism. But that would mean showing up for work, something Obama rarely does.

  25. Daffy

    Sean, the spin offs from the space program alone would cover pages. Educate yourself…it’s more difficult than spouting dogma, but much more rewarding.

    I would start with Robert Heinlein’s article “Spinoff.” Dated, but very enlightening.

  26. Elmar_M

    I watched the debate and I had to cringe when McCain said overhead projector.
    And he said “overhead projector” twice! Incredible, really!
    I really have to wonder whether that man is just outright stupid or a bold liar, or both.

    On a sidenote, did anyone notice that this man is moving like a robot? Is that the updated Cheney model, or the predecessor? He definitely looks like older tech…
    Sorry could not resist.

    Am I the only one that would have wished a different answer to the last question from both candidates?
    I would have loved something along the lines of “if I dont know something I will go and ask scientists that are experts in their field”. Either this is not what politicians have to say, or really neither of them thinks that way (that would be kinda scary though).

  27. BMcP

    But where does it say the government will repair roads, provide clean water, create public schools, fund the space program?

    To be fair they said federal government, that doesn’t forbid local or state government from providing water, schools, or roads. Most of that should and is paid locally or at state level anyway. Government isn’t bad, the idea of local and state governments paying over federal government on most expenses is that it allows for my direct control and accountability to the local taxpayers who benefit from these things. So the idea is to have the federal government small so it can be more easily accountable and less likely to devolve into a tyranny, while having local and state do the rest when it comes to the people’s needs. However I do concede there are certain projects the feds are needed for such as interstate commerce (this is where expressways and US highways come in), defense, and so on.

  28. Don’t hold your breath waiting for an apology… My money says he’ll repeat it again.

    I’m from Arizona and I’ve voted for him for Senate, but I won’t vote for him for president. He’s not the same man. As we get closer to the election I expect that Mr. McCain’s “Statesman Index” – the ratio of (statements of fact + constructive positions) to (statements of non-facts + pandering + demagoguery) will decline significantly. He’s desperate and it shows.

  29. Jim Howard says:

    “Obama opened this purchase up to justified criticism by making it an earmark. That means it skipped the normal vetting process that is used for legitimate government spending.

    Had Obama used the correct appropriations procedures then there would be no criticism. But that would mean showing up for work, something Obama rarely does.”

    But, the purchase wasn’t made with federal dollars. And, if you’re going to go down that road, then please start checking the purchases McCain has made using federal dollars. And McCain hasn’t “been to work” for the better part of a year, except to parachute in for highly publicized things like “suspending his campaign” to “help” the economic crisis.

    If you are going to criticize Obama for using the same procedure that every other member of the senate and house uses to get funding, then you’d better be prepared to critique every other member’s requests.

  30. The “overhead projector” crack got my goat, too.

  31. Jeremy

    “Whether or not a planetarium is a good thing to have around is a completely different question from whether the federal government should be spending money on it. It shouldn’t. Let the state or city handle it — or even better, let the place operate as a business and get its capital expenditures from its own profits.”

    Privately operated planetariums, by their very nature, are less accessible to the people that most need access to them. Since they must turn a profit they have to charge, be it individuals or school groups, and as a result those people and children who have the least access to good educational resources (the poor) are once again denied access to education.

    As to the state or city funding them, that’s lovely but they’re quite expensive and it’s not as though this isn’t a matter of national importance. It’s in the public interest to have well educated kids, who grow up to be well educated adults. The libertarian position is that government should stay out of everything but national defense. I would argue that government’s function is to serve the public interest, and there are few things that are more in the public interest than universal education.

  32. Frogmarch

    what’s wrong with an overhead projector; it would be good enough to project economic failure graphs for the Republicoids; We could teach kids how Bush and pals like to tax people by printing money.

    Mcain could show how the droids luuuv the kiddywinks so much that he could paint flying pigs on the planetarium with Mizz Piggy’s lipstick, that would show the height and age challenged little scroungers.

  33. John Varsik

    McCain has surely been to a planetarium. He was a naval aviator.
    Naval officers are required to learn celestial navigation (or at least
    they used to be). You can be sure the Naval Academy has a
    planetarium or at least it did when he was there. Most likely
    he was required to take a class involving using the planetarium.
    He knows what a planetarium projector is. There’s no excuse for
    what he said.

    McCain picked Palin as Vice President. That’s enough to tell
    me how he feels about science. At best he thinks it’s something
    to be discarded when expedient.

  34. llewelly

    The First Amendment of The Constitution of the United states:

    Naivety being necessary for the governance of a servile and obedient populace, the will of the people to remain ignorant shall not be infringed.

    You’ve probably heard of ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘freedom of religion’. In fact, those two lies are simply part and parcel of the Atheist Nation Myth.

  35. Fritriac

    OMG I hope that election is over asap. Just that whole debates makes me sick – and as a german guy i’m not even directly affected.

    To come to the point: Education means future to the kids, educated kids means future for science and technical development, means future for the economy.

    Stupidity means stagnancy – or regression. Stagnancy means death. Regression means sudden death.

    /So try to guess which guy(s) i favor ;-)

  36. Elmar_M

    hehe Fritriac, I bet you favor the same person I favor and that I believe most people in Europe favor… ;)

  37. ccpetersen Says: “If you are going to criticize Obama for using the same procedure that every other member of the senate and house uses to get funding, then you’d better be prepared to critique every other member’s requests.”

    You need to go to Wikipedia and look up political earmark. An earmark like this one is NOT ‘what every other member’ uses. It’s a subterfuge designed to fund a pet project without subjecting the project to the normal vetting process.

    Just because we like planetariums does not excuse funding it in this underhanded way.

    This example is instructive because it shows that Obama is all about business as usual, whereas McCain really does want to reform government.

  38. Joe

    Some libertarians say that the federal government shouldn’t fund it, that cities and states should.

    They say this, despite also opposing whenever a city or state funds anything.

    Also, cities and states do not have nearly the tax authority of the US federal government, and could not raise the funds needed by themselves.

  39. I made a handy little image to make it a little easier for McCain to remember the difference between a planetarium projector and an overhead projector.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/smailtronic/2923889488/

  40. PG

    I don’t think the big deal is about what the responsibilities of the government are and whether or not the government should be funding planetaria.

    I think the big deal is that McCain had a myriad of topics he could have picked to marginalize and use as a weapon against Obama. What topic does he pick but FUNDING FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION! That fraks me off!

  41. JJ

    Phil, try to keep above the fray. It is too tempting now that you are in an even more public position to use the liar label (do you claim then that other politicians are not liars?) and that sort of purjorative language. Sure, all us scientists can be disappointed that McCain doesn’t double-check the “facts” that get shovelled to him by his staff. Do you really thing HE poured over THAT GUY’S record and the only “earmark” he could come up with he would intentionally have to lie about? Nope. He gets these handed to him, and yeah, he probably has never been to a planetarium. He wouldn’t know if it was a lie or true, his failing is who is appoints to his staff and for that he needs to take responsibility.

    Just try to keep from going partisan. I used you as an example earlier this month of someone who tried hard to give benefit of the doubt to both sides. Sure, it fires up some of your readers and all their comments make it seem justified, but we scientists shouldn’t appear biased. Even the appearance of bias hurts our credibility. I see it way too much as the election approaches. People who are skeptics and rational (often scientists or science sympathizers), yet they cave to their (usually leftward) bias and they are not as critical about their end of the political spectrum. You can’t express your “personal feelings” quite the way you used to now that you are frankly a public figure representing science. I think it is quite fair to point out that in both debates, McCain made the same error in judgement, and because that hurts his credibility, he should fire the guy who’s pointing our science-related earmarks, because he sucks at his job!

  42. Robert Krendik

    No one messes with Science!!!!

  43. Daffy

    Llewely,

    I have never heard the “Atheist Nation Myth.” Who is making that claim?

    I can make the claim that many of the founding fathers were actually deists and were, in fact, hostile to Christianity; and, to be fair, many of them were Christians in their personal lives. But I have never heard of ANM. Who made that claim? What they set up was a separation of Church and State as far as the federal government was concerned.

    “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.”

    -Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813.

  44. Jose

    @John Varsik
    McCain has surely been to a planetarium. He was a naval aviator. Naval officers are required to learn celestial navigation (or at least they used to be).

    Don’t be so sure. He graduated 894 out of 899. And he only managed that because of his Daddy and Granddaddy were so important. I think it’s there’s a good chance he was getting wasted on planetarium day. Actually, that was probably every day.

  45. Maria Myrback

    Thank you for explaining precisely what the piece of equipment is that was purchased. I still stand by my previous statement on the other entry, however. Why have the government pay for it? Have fund raisers. Charge admission. Find a way that does not force people who do not WANT to pay for things like this, to pay for it.

    A planetarium is a business like any other. If it isn’t supporting itself then restructure, cut back, do what needs to be done but don’t presume that *I* am happy to pay for it.

  46. Elmar_M

    Hmm maybe the government should not be paying for military accquisitions then either. I mean not everyone wants to spend money on stuff that kills people. How about a fundraiser, huh Maria?

  47. Stephen Touset

    Phil, the Constitution doesn’t grant the federal government authority to create public schools, or fund the space program, or provide clean water. And in fact, if you read the 10th amendment, it’s explicitly forbidden from doing so. You can’t simply ignore the Constitution where you find it personally or politically expedient without forfeiting the ability to accuse others of doing the same.

    Preventing the federal government from doing these things won’t cause the downfall of American society. If anything, what most libertarians argue for is a return to a truly federal system. If the federal government didn’t spend money on these earmarks and pork projects (even for the ones that, yes, are reasonable expenditures), the states could instead levy those taxes to spend money on the projects they want.

    As it stands, the federal government taxes individuals, skims their share off in bureaucratic overhead, then offers that money back to the states if they agree to demands from the government. That money could just as easily be taxed by the states themselves, have less lost through attrition, then be spent on projects the states themselves decide on their own terms.

  48. Joe

    Maria, I’m not happy that I have to pay to eat food, but that doesn’t mean I think farmers and grocers aren’t worthy of being paid.

    I’ve noticed a lot of people taking out all their frustrations on government because it’s the only place they have a concrete say in how things are run. If people leveled half the charges of laziness, incompetence, and greed at private companies–where they have no say in how things are run– that they do at government, there wouldn’t be a single stable business.

  49. Phil I agree with you completely here, I am concerned however that the debate in this thread is going to tax your comment policy soon.

  50. Joe

    Stephen: source for the statement “skim their share off in bureaucratic overhead” please. Because if you’re seriously referring to the salary paid to someone for running a large agency, why aren’t you outraged that major corporations pay their CEO’s and other managers huge amounts of money?

  51. Ben

    The Adler Planetarium issued a response:

    Statement About Senator John McCain’s Comments At The Presidential Debate

    Last night, during the presidential debate in Nashville, Tennessee, Senator John McCain made the following statement:

    McCain: “While we were working to eliminate these pork barrel earmarks he (Senator Obama) voted for nearly $1 billion in pork barrel earmark projects. Including $3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Illinois. My friends, do we need to spend that kind of money?”

    To clarify, the Adler Planetarium requested federal support – which was not funded – to replace the projector in its historic Sky Theater, the first planetarium theater in the Western Hemisphere. The Adler’s Zeiss Mark VI projector – not an overhead projector – is the instrument that re-creates the night sky in a dome theater, the quintessential planetarium experience. The Adler’s projector is nearly 40 years old and is no longer supported with parts or service by the manufacturer. It is only the second planetarium projector in the Adler’s 78 years of operation.

    Science literacy is an urgent issue in the United States. To remain competitive and ensure national security, it is vital that we educate and inspire the next generation of explorers to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

    Senator McCain’s statements about the Adler Planetarium’s request for federal support do not accurately reflect the museum’s legislative history or relationship with Senator Obama.

    The Adler has approached the Illinois Congressional delegation the last few years for federal assistance with various initiatives. These have included museum exhibitions, equipment and educational programs we offer to area schools, including the Chicago Public Schools.

    We have made requests to Senators Durbin and Obama, as well as to 6 area Congressmen from both political parties. We are grateful that all of the Members we have approached, including Senator Obama, have deemed our activities worthy of their support, and have made appropriations requests on our behalf, as they have for many worthy Illinois nonprofit organizations.

    As a result of the hard work of our bipartisan congressional delegation, the Adler has been fortunate to receive a few federal appropriations the past couple of years.

    However, the Adler has never received an earmark as a result of Senator Obama’s efforts. This is clearly evidenced by recent transparency laws implemented by the Congress, which have resulted in the names of all requesting Members being listed next to every earmark in the reports that accompany appropriations bills.

  52. Jose

    @Stephen Touset
    Phil, the Constitution doesn’t grant the federal government authority to create public schools, or fund the space program, or provide clean water. And in fact, if you read the 10th amendment, it’s explicitly forbidden from doing so.

    Um. Where do you get that from? I must be looking at the other 10th Amendment.

  53. Stephen Touset

    Joe: Is one needed? Do you think the federal government is 100% efficient in getting money from taxes to the states?

    The state will lose some proportion of the money on its own in administrative costs. Whatever that amount, it will be the same whether or not it comes from state taxes, or the federal government. If you involve the federal government, and go by the assumption that it is _not_ 100% efficient, then there _will_ be some additional amount missing. I make no claim as to the size.

    But it does seem unreasonable that states get royally screwed here. The federal government taxes their citizens for funds, then offers those funds back to the states they were taxed from in the form of grants, as long as the state agrees to conditions that they may not have agreed to otherwise.

    Imagine, if you will, that I take your next paycheck. I’ll be more than happy to give it to you (minus a reasonable 1% cut for myself), as long as you use it only to buy local produce, and also always drive less than 55mph. Deal?

  54. Stephen Touset

    Jose: Sure you’re reading the correct amendment?

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    This amendment states that anything not explicitly granted to the federal government is forbidden to it, being the rights of the states or the citizens. Seeing as those things aren’t granted to the federal government in the Constitution… it shouldn’t exactly take a Constitutional lawyer to figure that one out.

  55. TW

    Dr Phil, since you mentioned my comment (Or a reasonable facsimile of my comment) as your ‘favorite’ and I am assuming you meant your favorite ‘fairly ridiculous’ one, you need to read, and understand, the Constitution. The Constitution sets up very specific things that the Federal government can do, the rest is given to the States, or the People.

    >>But where does it say the government will repair roads, provide clean water, create public schools, fund the space program?<<

    The Congress is given specific power for roads. "Article 1, Section 8: Congress shall have the power to…Establish Post Offices and post Roads."

    While clean water (or air) is not specifically mentioned it could be wound into the 'General Welfare' clause, because it is a nationwide thing necessary for everyone, unlike a planetarium which helps just one small geographic area, and a few specific people.

    Public schools are a State issue. Some argue that they are a 'general welfare' thing (President Bush for example), but I think that would be stretching that clause beyond its limits.

    And NASA, and the space program, could easily be part of the power to '…Provide and Maintain a Navy' again in Art 1, Sec 8. Where else did the 'Naval Observatory' get its name?

    The federal government has its place.

    State Governments have their place.

    Building and Maintaining Planetaria is a State, or Local, issue.

    I would not characterize spending money on a planetarium as being foolish, and McCain's mis-characterization is downright dishonest. But I do characterize spending federal money on such a project as being 'extra-Constitutional'.

  56. Jose

    @Stephen Touset
    We already went through this on the other thread. But here’s why it doesn’t apply

    The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States

  57. Davidlpf

    You know what the rest of the world wishes you to pull out of science education. And when you are all are dying of diseases you can not cure because decided to fund ID instead of evolution. When the satelittes fail and you can not spy on your enemies. When the oil runs out and the nation uses up all of your other resources. When communications fail so you can not talk to anyone. Your entire nation will be right for the taking.
    Of course we don’t but think of what will happen because of your actions today.

  58. Bill Tuttle

    Definitely not a foolish use of money. However, one that the Fed Gov has no business being involved in. Education should be handled from the State level, not dictated by the Feds.

  59. Celtic_Evolution

    Ugh… more Constitution interpreters… didn’t we already cover this in the last thread, Jose? Where’s Todd W?

    I’m not even going to start this up again… here’s the short version, Stephen, TW, et al: Stop trying to pretend you’re somehow better at interpreting the constitution than most everyone else over the last 200+ years of government. You’re just not.

    Unless you can find some supreme court judgment or precedent to support your interpretation… one that backs up your claim that federal government spending on public facilities like public schools, museums, hospitals, etc is strictly unconstitutional, I really don’t want to hear it. You’d think that if this were so clearly the case, the supreme court might’ve gotten around to saying so by now… no?

  60. Ragutis

    Jim Howard, while I’m not particularly impressed with Obama’s attendance record during the campaign (he voted for a mere 54% of legislation in the 110th Congress), it’s much better than Sen. McCain’s, who was only present for 36%.

    Who’s been skipping work? The bailout was the first thing McCain voted on since April. McCain has chronically had one of the worst attendance records, while in (his admittedly short) tenure, Obama has racked up a rather impressive one, including 98%+ in the 109th Congress.

  61. Bill Tuttle

    Heaven’s – let’s not let that pesky old Constitution get in the way.

  62. Celtic_Evolution

    @ Bill Tuttle

    Wouldn’t dream of it.

  63. Jose

    @Celtic_Evolution
    Don’t worry. The first post ended up being about gay bashing. The second was a constitutional war. This one’s bound to turn to something like…..alien psychics! I’ve got my fingers crossed.

  64. KC

    “Thank you for explaining precisely what the piece of equipment is that was purchased. I still stand by my previous statement on the other entry, however. Why have the government pay for it? Have fund raisers. Charge admission. Find a way that does not force people who do not WANT to pay for things like this, to pay for it.

    A planetarium is a business like any other.”

    Please note the planetarium never got the earmark nor did Obama even vote for it. This is all much ado about nothing!

    Obviously the Adler, like all planetariums and science centers, is fund raising and charging admission as much as they can. Remember also that many many planetariums were built in the 50s and 60s by the government, or with government funds, in the first place as important educational institutions. They are not businesses. If you demand that planetariums be self sufficeient that’s fine, but then you must treat all educational institutions the same: museums, libraries, schools, universities, planetariums, aquariums, etc. I would suspect that admission fees would be so high that only the rich would be able to make use of them. Is that what you really want?

  65. robby

    I try not to buy too many chinese plastic action figures, better to carve them out of pine and hand paint. Besides who wants to fund Chinese military and aerospace adventures? We need more scientists in US business and government roles, send all the Wall Street finance wizards to China to work in the slave labor camps they fund with American dollars!

  66. scenario dave

    There are two sperate arguments going here. McCain is essentially saying that planetariums are a waste of money and implying that science education is a waste of money. Many of the people here are arguing that the federal government should not be paying for planetariums. The second argument is reasonable for a fiscal conserative to make. The first arguement is insanely stupid.

    The problem with the republican party is that it has a significant minority that has no use for science. Anyone who wants to get elected as a Republican has to pander to them or risk losing substantial funding. Democrats are only marginally better but at least most of their main supporters are sane. In a lot of ways the Democrats of today are closer to the values of traditional fiscal conservatives than are the Republicans.

  67. Elwood

    You know, as a contractor providing genuinely needed support to the people serving our country, the notion of Government as this impersonal, wasteful, malevolent force akin to the Dark Side in “Star Wars” grows pretty old. Save for some monumental mistakes like unnecessary wars, tax revenue does not simply disappear into some type of bureaucratic black hole. Much of what the government does creates jobs, and eliminating or greatly reducing the government would by the same as forcing hundreds of large corporations to perform indiscriminate layoffs. When the government buys something, it is usually either produced or maintained by a U.S. firm. The salaries of contractors and government workers go right back in to local economies. And very few people associated with the government from the public or contracting side make the kind of money they could make if focused entirely on the private sector.

    I was upset the first time McCain brought up the projector, fearful the second time and outraged when he started talking about across the board spending freezes with the exception of Defense. Firstly, why exempt Defense? Is it just presumed that Defense is infallible in its spending. Secondly, why an across the board freeze? By failing to adjust for inflation, a freeze would effectively lower the wages thousands upon thousands who work for their government because they love their country and realize that government and country are very difficult to separate in any meaningful sense.

  68. There are about 4000 visible stars in the sky.
    This projector cost 3 million dollars.
    That is $750 per projected star.

    When this thing was built:
    there were no solid state lasers
    there were no LED’s
    there were no cheap computers
    there were no fiber optics

    Do you guys really mean to tell me that despite the huge advances in technology, the Zeiss is still the most cost-effective way of projecting stars?

  69. JPS, FCD

    @ Celtic_Ev and Jose,

    Could one of you post a link to the other threads mentioned in your recent posts? I missed them and they sound interesting.

  70. Ijon Tichy

    Libertarianism is to politics what creationism (or maybe I.D.) is to science. It’s a cult, full of crackpots with nutty ideas. What a surprise that it is in the USA where both these loony movements flourish the most! What happens when you don’t regulate capitalism enough and properly? You get the current financial crisis. What happens when you try and make government small, and cut back on all the services and programs that governments provide in civilised countries? You get the USA, which lags every other western country in social health indicators. Libertarians are a f***ing joke:

    Q: How many libertarians does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    A: None. If the government would just leave it alone, it would screw itself in.

  71. JPS, FCD

    Sure… Phil actually refers to it in this thread, but you can click my name to get to the post from last night… there’s over 140 comments, but it’s about 1/3 of the way down where it starts to degenerate into a constitutional debate, beginning with a comment from XI where he (or she… don’t want to assume) derisively tells Phil to read the constitution and claims that supporting this planetarium funding is clearly unconstitutional.

    I admit I could have started off less defensively in asserting my position, but the tenor of the comment irked me.

    Enjoy.

  72. @ Lab Lemming

    Do you guys really mean to tell me that despite the huge advances in technology, the Zeiss is still the most cost-effective way of projecting stars?

    Honestly, I’m not sure… I don’t know of one… perhaps Phil does. If there is one that is commercially available, I’d be interested to know if this or other planetaria have considered the alternatives to using the Zeiss. If there isn’t, perhaps you’ve got yourself a real business opportunity there, Lab Lemming… I know I’d support finding new, perhaps better ways of representing the cosmos in our planetaria if possible.

  73. tacitus

    The problem with the republican party is that it has a significant minority that has no use for science.

    Not exactly true. They have plenty of use for science when it comes to consuming all the wonderful high-tech goodies that are the fruits of all that humanistic fundamental science research they’re so quick to condemn.

    It’s what that research tells us about the nature of Earth and the Universe they really hate.

  74. # Bigfoot Says:
    October 8th, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    @Robert Grumbine, why don’t we need more scientists? Or at least desire them?

    I think we would be far better off as a society if we took just 10% of our collective entertainment budgets and diverted the funds to science. This is just a wild guess, but I’m guessing that would about double our science resources, which in turn would accelerate the growth of our knowledge of reality.

    Perhaps we would be more enlightened about energy generation and/or usage by now. Or be able to effectively prevent or treat common types of cancer. Or, perhaps most unlikely but certainly most important, have a population that knows and cares as much about general science as they do about Britney’s last visit to rehab.

    Who knows how much more knowledge we might have had we started doing this 50 years ago?

    Bigfoot, you’ll get no argument from me about science being a good thing, and a field well worth substantial investment. If you’re talking basic science, something which NSF increasingly does not fund, then I’d guess 10% of entertainment spending would far more than double the science budget.

    But that isn’t what I was referring to. The number of people we need — in the sense of how many we (societally, corporately, whatehaveyou) are willing or interested in hiring — is, and has been for 40+ years, lower in the US than the number of graduates. This, you can find by looking in to what happens to graduates in science after they graduate (pick your level). ‘Get a series of escalating bids from would-be employers’ is not one of the things you find widespread evidence of. Get a job in some unrelated area (Wall street was hot for physicists in the 90s bubble, at a time when physics was cold) is a significant player. That is not what happens if there is a shortage of some skill. If there were a shortage in some area, then anyone graduating in that area is gobbled up, as is anybody who is somewhere vaguely close. In practice, it is the reverse. People close are ignored, people in the general area are ignored, and people who specifically studied that area compete with the others who did so to see which 1/3 will enter a ‘permanent’ position, which 1/3 will enter the temporary position treadmill, and 1/3 will be looking for jobs on Wall Street or other unrelated. (Figures approximately appropriate for physics at the doctoral level since the 1991 survey by the American Institute of Physics see their web site).

    I’m speaking specifically the US as this is a US politics thread. Situations are different (both directions) in other countries. Shortage is not what the US has of science graduates — compared to science jobs. I wish there were a shortage, as that would indicate we’d shifted our priorities to something which is fundamental to our national future. But until I see plummeting rates of temporary hires (prior to 1989, it was 2/3rds who were hired in to ‘permanent’ positions; it dropped from 2/3rds to 1/3rd between successive biennial surveys), a sudden increase in salaries, etc., shortage is a description I’ll reject. We know what a market economy does in the face of a shortage. That is not happening w.r.t. science hiring in any broad scale.

    If a shortage ever did develop, it would be temporary — rapidly fillable from the graduates of the past 20 years who didn’t get jobs in science at the time, or by new graduates changing out of other majors in favor of science. We graduate about 1.2 million bachelor’s each year. Physical science now gets under 0.02 million (Department of Education figures; compare physical science to landscaping, mathematics to theology, anything at all to business).

    But the shortage of general understanding of what science is, how it works, what it can and can’t do — all essential for making informed political decisions as voters and legislators … That is a present shortage and has been … always. Sometimes better, and sometimes, like now, worse. Having an informed population is vital to a democracy. Planetaria are one of the routes to that.

  75. Bobby Thomas

    Lab Lemming,

    Google Image Search “planetarium show.”

    While the technology available has improved, so has our desire for more exciting planetarium shows.

  76. dave

    McCain is an intellectual troglodyte. He’s a nepotistic military spoiled brat and political opportunist who is milking populist conceptions of “elitism” for all it’s worth – hence the planetarium comments in the debate. His political base has no use for planetariums, and neither does he. We don’t need no stinkin’ science! IMO, he is an odious character, and unfit to be president or commander in chief:

    http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/23316912/makebelieve_maverick/print

  77. Bobby Thomas

    The image at http://www.astro.ucla.edu/planetarium/ <– is very telling of why those points of light get so expensive.

  78. Bobby Thomas
  79. Ian

    “Where is the outrage over Obama’s support of Surbanes-Oxeley which has been destructive to the capital markets that fund all the private science innovation? ”

    Because people still remember Enron and the bogus black outs and gamed energy market in California that has pretty much bankrupted the state. Sarbanes-Oxley was a direct result of that. And people don’t buy the “regulation is evil” boogeyman right now since lobbyist authored retard deregulation is what got us in the current mess to begin with.

    The last three financial train wrecks(S&L, Enron, sub-prime) are direct results of such short sighted deregulation authored by lobbyists.

    Shorter story: we don’t believe you deregulation guys any more. We’re sick of paying for your mistakes. Thanks for nothing.

  80. eigenvector

    McCain’s an idiot, period. But I wonder if the Adler Planetaria guys could project an o’head transparency with the Zeiss just to see what it would look like? Incredibly cool?! It could even say: “Vote Science.” Invite the press. Probably if we just point and laugh at McSame he’ll go away!

  81. Sean O'Hara

    Sean, the spin offs from the space program alone would cover pages. Educate yourself…it’s more difficult than spouting dogma, but much more rewarding.

    I would start with Robert Heinlein’s article “Spinoff.” Dated, but very enlightening.

    Does he include teflon, Tang, and velcro?

  82. BlondeReb3

    Aww, this reminds me of the good ole debates right after the Constitutions ratification. Can we only do what is explicitly said in the Constitution or is it implied that we can do things that aren’t so long as they don’t violate the Constitution? The historian in me comes out with every presidential election (yet considering that I’m 23, this is only the 2nd election I’ve actually been allowed to vote in….)

  83. @ Lab Lemming

    Your question got me curious, so I did some research…

    From what I’ve read so far, it looks as though there are some alternatives to the Zeiss technology currently used in most planetariums. Some planetariums are now using digital projection using LCD, DLP and laser technology, but these have limitations. Specifically, they don’t provide high enough resolution for “pin-point” stars, the colors are not accurate, and LCDs don’t do a great job of projecting either true black or true white.

    The consensus seems to be that while DLP and LCOS technology are improving, we’re still a long way away from being able to represent a star field that can compete with the latest Zeiss projector technology. There are competing products with the Zeiss, such as the Konica-Minolta Infinium series, but what I’ve read points to the Zeiss Mark VI being one of the best, if not the best, star projector available currently.

    Phil, feel free to correct me if I’m way off on any of what I just wrote…

  84. “Obama opened this purchase up to justified criticism by making it an earmark. That means it skipped the normal vetting process that is used for legitimate government spending.

    Had Obama used the correct appropriations procedures then there would be no criticism. But that would mean showing up for work, something Obama rarely does.”

    Did you NOT read the statement from the Adler planetarium folks? There was NO earmark coming from Obama on the project. I can’t for the life of me figure out why Obama laid down and let McCain kick him in the groin for something he didn’t do. What is the strategy there? Maybe he figured the truth would come out and everyone would know that McCain is a liar and a fool. Nor did I hear one peep out of Mr. Obama’s mouth praising planetariums and their public funding.

  85. Sean O'Hara

    Libertarianism is to politics what creationism (or maybe I.D.) is to science. It’s a cult, full of crackpots with nutty ideas.

    Yes indeed, I support many nutty ideas. Drug legalization. Free trade. Gay marriage. Legalized prostitution. The abolition of the death penalty. Open borders. Legalized gambling. Reduction of copyrights. Lowering the drinking age to 18. Severe cuts in government spending.

    Yup, I’m a crazy nutball.

  86. @ Tom Marking

    I was wondering the same thing regarding Obama’s lack of response. I suppose it could have been due to the god-awful format for this debate, which limited the number and the length of time each had for rebuttal. I suppose he could have seen it as “low-hanging fruit” and decided to focus on other of McCain’s many, many inaccurate statements that might carry more weight with the participants and the nation, in general…

    I’m going with the “pick your fights” theory, and he just didn’t have the time to prioritize a response to this claim above other issues… just my opinion.

  87. Celtic_Evolution

    @ Sean O’Hara

    You sound more like a total anarchist to me… :)

  88. Daffy

    Sean,

    What makes many Libertarians nutballs (I don’t know you), is their sad clinging to Libertarian dogma. I actually agree with Libertarians about 85% of the time (according to a test I took, given by Libertarians…seriously), but that doesn’t mean I am willing to shut my brain down over the last 15%. It’s the same with anyone who blindly follows a party line…they surrender their intellect to party dogma.

    “ALL government is bad” is one example. That is a ludicrous notion, easily disproved by facts, and yet Libertarians cling to it like it was the hem of their mother’s dress. There are no easy answers, Sean. Sorry.

  89. Daffy

    Almost forgot, Sean,

    Read the article, then we can talk. Until then you’re just flailing.

  90. Stephen Touset

    @Jose

    It’s pretty clear from the mindsets of our founding fathers that “general welfare” did not include anything under the sun. In a purely literal sense, just about _any_ government action could be taken under the guise of being for the “general welfare”. Remember, as far as you want to take that clause, your political opposites will want to take it just as far in the opposite direction.

  91. Celtic_Evolution

    It looks like Stephen didn’t read through our debate over this in the last thread, Jose…

    sigh…

  92. Quiet Desperation

    Sorry. I just can’t get excited over the planetarium 1500 miles from me when my (BLEEPING) early retirement is getting pushed out because all of the (BLEEPING) ***IDIOTS*** in Congress and the miserable, sociopathic producers of NOTHING on Wall Street have ruined the economy and the world. Overhead projector? I got you overhead projector right here.

    And don’t even try to blame one side or the other. If you seriously think just one said of the aisle is to blame here, your ideology has just shut down your brain. It has just shut it off, and it is DEAD.

    The world economy has been raped, and what are people arguing about? Planetarium projectors and “that one” during the debate and Weatherman bombings when Obama was 8 years old. Will someone please build an L5 colony already? I want to get out of here! To quote the Covenant leader from Halo, “You are, all of you, vermin!”

    (shakes fist)

    I’m sorry. I might be in the early stages of a nervous breakdown this week. Oddly, it has nothing to do with the economy. It’s been building for a long time.

    Sean O’Hara: Drug legalization. Free trade. Gay marriage. Legalized prostitution. The abolition of the death penalty. Open borders. Legalized gambling. Reduction of copyrights. Lowering the drinking age to 18. Severe cuts in government spending.

    Drug legalization: OK

    Free trade: it depends

    Gay marriage: OK

    Legalized prostitution: OK (could use some right now, in fact)

    The abolition of the death penalty: Meh… never was strong one way or the other because it hardly ever happens anyway.

    Open borders: Absolutley NO. That one actually is crazy nutball.

    Legalized gambling: OK

    Reduction of copyrights: It depends. I think the real problem lies in the current patent system, and that’s coming from someone who has nine patents.

    Lowering the drinking age to 18: I’d either raise it to 25 or lower it to 12. Depends on my mood on any given day.

    Severe cuts in government spending: Where?

  93. Quiet Desperation

    Celtic_Evolution Says: You sound more like a total anarchist to me…

    The correct term in minarchist.

  94. Celtic_Evolution

    Ahh… thanks QD… and now I have a new word to use in everyday conversation… excellent! :)

  95. Quiet Desperation

    What makes many Libertarians nutballs (I don’t know you), is their sad clinging to Libertarian dogma.

    Oh, yeah, and *none* of the other ideological types EVER do *that*!

    EVERYONE has dogma of one kind or another.

    Unless they have catma.

    HAHAHAHAHA!

    I crack me up. Or, I’m cracking up. One of the two. Or both. Maybe.

  96. Celtic_Evolution

    I crack me up. Or, I’m cracking up. One of the two. Or both. Maybe.

    Could be the booze….

    Nah….

  97. Stephen Touset

    @Celtic_Evolution

    On a hopefully more… salient note, then. Just remember, every power you allow government to have will wind up in the hands of a politician you hate. Whenever you want to give government a responsibility, think about it being a power wielded by Bush.

  98. “Libertarianism is to politics what creationism (or maybe I.D.) is to science. It’s a cult, full of crackpots with nutty ideas. What a surprise that it is in the USA where both these loony movements flourish the most! What happens when you don’t regulate capitalism enough and properly? You get the current financial crisis.”

    Hmmm, interesting. Recent $850 billion bailout (i.e., ripoff) package going to Wall Street. Was supposed to calm the stock market but the Dow has dropped more than a thousand points since its passage.

    Current sitting Republican President: Pushed it on all us dumb suckers
    Evil deluded sitting Treasury Secretary: Hatched it
    Republican candidate for President: Voted for it
    Democratic candidate for President: Voted for it
    Libertarian candidate for President: Opposed it

    I guess I support the nutty cult. Now, can I get my share of the $850 billion back?

  99. Quiet Desperation

    @Celtic:

    No problem.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minarchist

    I used to be a minarchist until the age of 16 when I realized people are, in general, too stupid, greedy, broken and awful for such a system to work. I think we have WAY to much government now, but I feel the real solution lies somewhere between minarchism and the current bloated, choking mess.

    Everyone just needs to be open minded, and handle situations individually.

    I’d say the ONLY overarching rule I have is to try and solve problems at the source, and then move outward.

    1. Family
    2. Extended family
    3. Community
    4. City
    5. County
    6. State
    7. Federal

    You start at 1 and reach 7 only as a last resort.

  100. Celtic_Evolution

    @ Stephen Touset

    I won’t argue that point… my point is merely that in cases where constitutional interpretation is needed, we have the supreme court to make rulings… so it’s not like it’s totally open to any interpretation you want. You think an issue, like this funding, is unconstitutional based on your interpretation, bring it to the Supreme Court…

    So far, though…

  101. Quiet Desperation

    Libertarianism is to politics what creationism (or maybe I.D.) is to science.

    Actually, lets generalize that hypothesis.

    Rigid ideology is to politics what religion is to science.

    There. Better.

    To be scientific in politics, you draw upon many different disciplines. In this case, the disciplines are all the different ideologies. You use them as toolboxes, taking bits from each to fix a problem. What you DON’T do is dive into one of them and live there, which is what most people do. So all most people have is a hammer, and every societal problem looks like a nail.

    It’s just poetry, isn’t it? :-P

  102. Stephen Touset

    @Celtic_Evolution

    I think a fundamental problem is that the Supreme Court actually has no real accountability to enforce the Constitution. Virtually every Supreme Court case has multiple justices split with reasonable and not so reasonable opinions of what powers the Constitution grants and restricts. I think most people can agree that just about any nutjob would be capable of bending the meaning and intent of the Constitution to support any viewpoint they could conceivably hold.

    I admit, I’m kind of between a rock and a hard place here. Admittedly, the Supreme Court is responsible for interpreting the Constitution, and their opinion of it becomes the law of the land. But at the same time, it should be obvious to all that between the sheer deluge of new laws being passed (of which only a fraction could possibly ever be tried in the Supreme Court, due to their number) and the political leanings of individual justices, the Constitution is rarely enforced to the degree it should be.

  103. @ Celtic Evolution:
    How does a Zeiss get colors correct when a high quality tungsten lamp has a temperature of around 3200K? That would turn the entire sky into red giants.

  104. a lurker

    That a worthy nonprofit educational institution can get help should not be controversial. The question should be how it should be done. I would not give federal money unless the local area was not willing to put up some money, i.e. some kind of scheme which the feds match either state or local funds.

    /Still McCain’s objection is asinine.

  105. Celtic & Lab Lemming:

    Zeiss sells the top of the line optical planetarium projectors. The Mark IX is currently their high end model. Yes, there are competitors in the optical projector market, and digital projection is making serious inroads, but if you want the best, and have the cash, that’s where you go. Regarding LL’s temperature question, these projectors don’t have a single lamp inside of the starball, they use fiber optics to ensure properly colored stars.

  106. Jose

    @Stephen Touset
    I think most people can agree that just about any nutjob would be capable of bending the meaning and intent of the Constitution to support any viewpoint they could conceivably hold.

    Our government already has built in nutjob protection. Imagine if there was someone who wanted federal funding to genetically engineer pink bears. First they’d have to get it on a bill. Then the House would have to pass it, followed by the Senate. And finally, the president would have to sign it into law. If somehow it did make it this far, it would be subject to challenges in our judicial system.

  107. Iamspartacus

    Remember, McCain belongs to a party that still has serious objections to Copernican astronomy. Right now he’d do anything to pander to the religious right, including undergo an exorcism.

  108. Autumn

    Shouldn’t there be some kind of internet law such that a commenter complaining about “my tax dollars being wasted on [x]” will be mercilessly teased until or unless they state or have stated exactly how much of their tax burden was actually spent on said project?
    “My 0.34 cents a year shouldn’t pay for no damn food stamps!” is at least a coherent thought, as opposed to “some unknown amount (possibly none) of my tax money is bein’ spent on sumpin’, and I’m mad! Stupid gubmint. Now where can I buy some lotto tickets?”

    -Autumn

  109. David Z

    Did senator McCain skipped education in his hurry to get to Vietnam? The “projector” story just shows how out of touch, out of date and technology illiterate this man is. Being a 1960s war hero is clearly not enough to lead America in the 21st century.

  110. Phil, I still disagree with you here. A project like this should be funded through the Department of Education or the National Science Foundation. Should an educational institution’s success depend on how much pull their politicians have in Washington?

  111. As a quick addendum to my previous post, it also needs to be said that if a planetarium wants to be able to offer the big, new, wow-factor planetarium shows (such as the Black Holes show that Phil worked on), they need a digital projection system along with, or instead of an optical projector like a Zeiss. Very few places can afford to have both, so most planetariums are forced to choose one (and the strengths and weaknesses inherent to that system) over the other when upgrading or opening their theater.

  112. Daffy

    Quiet Desperation: “Oh, yeah, and *none* of the other ideological types EVER do *that*!

    EVERYONE has dogma of one kind or another.”

    Exactly the point I was making. Partisans surrender their intellect to the party.

    That said, I thought your posts actually were pretty clever and funny.

  113. Pete

    Just dropped into this discussion and find it fascinating to read and also reassuring that most folks out there feel that more and better science and math education in our nation is sorely needed. I was a bit mystified last night at McCain’s railing against an “overhead projector” as I didn’t know what he was talking about. I was then aghast today when I found out that it was the planetarium projector needed for the Adler Planetarium for the great work that they do. Whenever I come to Chicago I always rejoice in that it’s a great city of museums that rivals many others. Museums and other forms of educational institutions require the support of government if we require the enlightenment we need to survive intellectually. It’s my opinion that it’s those like the narrow-minded far-right creationists, aloof home schoolers, book-banners, and other exotic anti-societal fringe groups who support McCain who are against expenditures like this, and who are deathly afraid of what scientific discovery and man’s curiousity evidenced by continual factual discovery in our universe. I just don’t understand why they don’t have the wisdom to embrace and unify both their beliefs and those on the other side of the fence to have a greater understanding of the benefits that are brought to humankind by science. Does everything have to be so literal with them? Are they afraid that the Hubble Telescope will actually find the Big Bang? Surely this isn’t what God intended, if indeed there is a God who made us all?

  114. Daniel

    I wish NASA would do some sort of outreach to the states for stuff like this( I know…the funding is tee tiny, But then how do you explain the Challenger Centers).

  115. This was a deliberate lie on McCain’s part.
    He chose his words very carefully – most people have a reasonable idea of the cost of an “overhead projector”, so by using that completely misleading terminology for a complex and expensive piece of equipment he was trying to accuse Obama not only of waste, but also of corruption – evoking the wasteful excesses endemic to the old Soviet Union, to take one example. He’s counting on his target audience being people proud of not being able to say “planetarium”. In doing so he ties himself ever more closely to the jackass Bush, who glories in his own ignorance and lack of curiosity (of course the selection of Palin – who probably should have been called “Georgina”, being Dubya in drag – should have made that crystal clear already).
    McCain is a manipulative liar. What a great idea, another sociopath in the White House.

  116. In many cases, [government] takes the money it gets in taxes and does fantastic things with it

    This past April 15, I worked out that my share of my state’s library budget came out to something like $30 a year. For that, I can borrow more books, tapes, CDs and DVDs than I can carry. I think the prices at Blockbuster and Netflix are a wee bit higher than that.

  117. Dave Mears

    McCain’s mischaracterization is noted and agreed with, however I’m sure Obama’s earmark had nothing to do with Frank Clark, former (and at the time, current) chairman of of the Adler Planetarium raising $200,000 for the Obama presidential campaign? And to be honest, I think a private business that employees 150 people and charges between $5 and $23 for admissions could budget for a $3,000,000 projector. If not, how about Chicago, where it’s actually located pay or co-pay for it. Chicago is the US’s 3rd largest city – the projector would cost less than $1.50 per tax payer. As you said it is just a one time cost, unlikely to be repeated anytime soon. If Not, Illinois is the US’s 5th most populous state. The question is not, is this a worthy cause. It is unquestionably worthwhile. The question is, is it a cause the federal government itself should be the one to foot the bill? For a private (though admittedly non-profit) enterprise. I’m going to have to go with no. The problem with earmarks, there are thousands of them. And if you spend enough time you’ll find a campaign contribution – at minimum, tied to each and every one. Don’t you agree that we should at least make it a little challenging to buy a politician?

  118. Jason Perry

    I think you missed the point, Phil. McCain was making a point about earmarking as a funding source, and using the star projector as an example. I don’t think it’s anti-science to expect that such funding should go through the proper channels, such as through a particular committee. I am all for planetariums, and I don’t see anything in what McCain has said as indicating that he is against planetariums.

  119. *sigh*

    I hate this idiotic “privatize everything!!!” mantra. granted, a lot of things work better that way, but investment in people generally doesn’t (they insist you pay upfront). You know what often happens to planetaria (and educational museums) when they privatize? they shift to cheaper, more money-producing, more attention-grabbing fluff, and abandon the deeper stuff. they turn education into edutainment

    the last thing we need is less education and more edutainment.

  120. arensb, let me personally thank you for putting in your $30 into a local library. I’m actually hoping that was a typo and you meant $300, because $30 for a year of books, DVD’s, magazines, newspapers, CD’s, computer classes etc. is extremely little.

    I’d use $30 in 2 weeks if I didn’t have a public library nearby.

  121. Thomas Siefert

    McCain: Is it safe?… Is it safe?
    BA: You’re talking to me?
    McCain: Is it safe?
    BA: Is what safe?
    :-)

  122. Dave Mears

    “The yearly budgets have grown accordingly and now exceed $2 million a year for the engineering department alone!” From wikiChicago.

    Alder is a non-profit, but also a business. With the number of employees they have, I’m sure at least one of them is an accountant. Their old equipment would be fully depreciated by now, and the price of new equipment – I kinda doubt it’s that big of a surprise. If it was not budgeted for the planetarium is fairly irresponsible. Schools don’t have admissions and do have government oversight. This is a “non-profit” educational theme park. I can’t even begin to imagine that their funding plan for their main attraction was “When this one stops working let’s ask the gub’ment to buy us a newer one.” That seriously fails the sniff test. The money comes from somewhere, and that much money could buy a fairly reasonable amount of infrastructure work.

  123. Somebody

    McCain sucks! He’s been riding on his “I was captive in Vietnam” story, but reality of 2000s is catching up. The republican administration will surely find a way to thwart the 3rd presidential election going for democrats in a row.

  124. Daniel

    I would rather the taxpayers spend 3 million on a federal level for a new planetarium than 700 BILLION to bail out corporations that are taking half million dollar siestas on the taxpayers dime(thanks AIG). This was the privatizing slippery slope.

  125. Hal's Dave

    “Scoots” away from Quiet Desperation very carefully.

  126. DrFlimmer

    That cartoon is wonderful ;) :-D

    But: Going to a planetarium is lie going on vaccation for me. I live about 10km east of Dortmund, Germany, and I think some folks here know what that means. I hate light-pollution! So, to see the night sky as I should see it (or I’d really love to see it) I must go to a planetarium.

    Believe it or not: It was this year (in summer!) that I was able to see the Milky Way from where I live for the FIRST time. The first time I ever saw it was one year ago when I went to the observatory “Hoher List” in the Eifel – there it was quite dark and I was really amazed to see it – it was awesome!!

    Planeteria are great, even if you fall asleep in there ;)

  127. Dave Mears

    Leaving aside if the federal government should be funding local affairs, micromanaging by congress bypasses the mechanisms in place to assure that the money is being spent wisely. 700 billion the government will get back at least some, and perhaps all or all + profit. Privatizing? This is social engineering. Giving loans to bad credit risks was something the government encouraged and enforced. Decoupling loans from people’s ability to pay is at the heart of it and soul of it. And I promise you that wasn’t a republican policy.

  128. oh, and since there’s harping about Obama’s earmarks: if McCain wants to do earmark-cleaning, he should start with his own ticket. Palin has drawn more pork than Obama and Biden combined.

    I’m not a big fan of earmarking, and there should be better ways to get individual projects funded, but the hypocrisy hurts.

  129. Cusp

    In english, the plural of planetarium is planetariums – latinizing words is not english – it’s pure pomposity.

  130. marco

    McCain and her running (ruining?) mate only believe in what is written in the bible. How sad is to have a knowledgeable candidate such as Barack Obama and know there are people out there who still support ignorant people such as McCain and Bush.

  131. You know what anti-science is, Phil?

    If we go by his actions, Barry Obama is the most-antiscience presidental candidate ever.

    When he and his unrepentant terrorist pal Bill Ayers ran the Woods Fund together in the late 90s, they cut off and refused funding to improve mathematics and science education, instead funnelling vast sums of money to far left indoctrination.

    Nice Presidental Candidate you got there, Phil. The only thing of note he’s done in his life, apart from hanging around a racist church for 20 years, to is fund the murderous ideas of a terrorist.

  132. I just have to point out that McCain has said he doesn’t want to get rid of a lot of the programs paid for with earmarks, he just wants them placed in the regular budget bills. This was a necessity on his part when it was pointed out that the earmarks he’s railing against include things like aid to Israel and money for veterans and other such things. So, his whole position really boils down to a complaint about a technicality, namely, where funding for these programs comes from. It’s really very silly of him. It’s like complaining about the rules of grammer (punctuation should be allowed to go outside the quotation marks, dag gummit!) Or running a presidential campaign on a platform of organizing everyone’s filing cabinets (chronological!!!)

    And of course, I’m the one that suffers the consequences of this stupidity. Every time my wingnut brother-in-law comes over its “$3 million on BEARS!!!” and other such nonsense. (A reply of “$10 billion a month in Iraq” or “$100 billion missile defense that doesn’t even work” just seems to bounce off his thick hide. Honestly.)

  133. Jakub Dudzinski

    Whaddaya know – former NASA engineer is now managing the $700 billion of financial bailout. Mybe he could get some of this redirected to NASA’s budget? ;)

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27092586/

  134. I’d like to point everyone to a great project, Stellarium. I’ve been using it to educate myself on our sky. I rarely get to see the real thing in the Cincinnati.

  135. As a followup:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122212856075765367.html

    “CAC translated Mr. Ayers’s radicalism into practice. Instead of funding schools directly, it required schools to affiliate with “external partners,” which actually got the money. Proposals from groups focused on math/science achievement were turned down. Instead CAC disbursed money through various far-left community organizers, such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or Acorn).”

  136. Michelle

    …that projector is HUGE. I just saw it on Gizmodo…

    My god… If that’s an overhead projector… it’s something I want in my living room. But my living room is not big enough.

  137. Celtic_Evolution

    Cusp -

    I suggest you take a look at the Merriam-Webster ENGLISH online dictionary, where it lists both Planetarium and Planetaria as acceptable plurals for the word Planetarium.

    Once you’re done looking that up, go ahead and re-read your post… Talk about pompous…

    … This now concludes the PSA, presented by local office of CAP (Citizens Against Pedantry).

  138. KillerChihuahua

    @Smail:
    LOVE the visual aid, thanks! I’m emailing the link to several people I know.

  139. DavidHW

    Please cut John McCain some slack. In his day, they projected shadows on cave walls and told stories of the Great Dragon devouring the sun. And they liked it that way.

  140. “Libertarianism is to politics what creationism (or maybe I.D.) is to science. It’s a cult, full of crackpots with nutty ideas. What a surprise that it is in the USA where both these loony movements flourish the most! What happens when you don’t regulate capitalism enough and properly? You get the current financial crisis.”

    Last night there was an interesting episode of “Criminal Minds” on CBS which is a show following the careers of a group of FBI criminal profilers. In this particular episode they portray a Waco-like standoff where the FBI surrounds a compound in which a cult has amassed automatic weapons. Guess who the cult guys are in the show? That’s right – the Libertarians. ROFLMAO. So you’d all better watch out for those Bible-thumping Libertarians. They’re a dangerous cult according to CBS. Bob Barr is in there with a gun and he’s not coming out peacefully. :)

  141. Jon

    “the equation of libertarianism with Social Darwinism is as grossly ignorant as the equation of liberals with socialists.”
    Sure, but only according to the libertarian.

    “You need to go to Wikipedia and look up political earmark.”
    The amount of people who attempt to cite Wikipedia as a reliable source of information never ceases to amaze me. If you believe yourself to be knowledgeable after reading that site, you have no business participating in discussions such as these, period.

    “Libertarianism is to politics what creationism (or maybe I.D.) is to science. It’s a cult, full of crackpots with nutty ideas.”
    Amen. It is but one step below Objectivism on the crackpot ladder.

    “Yes indeed, I support many nutty ideas. Drug legalization. Free trade. Gay marriage. Legalized prostitution. The abolition of the death penalty. Open borders. Legalized gambling. Reduction of copyrights. Lowering the drinking age to 18. Severe cuts in government spending.”
    First of all, as a creator and copyright owner, maybe you should mind your own business. While it’s not much of a surprise to see someone so clearly incapable of earning a living by means of his own creativity advocating such intellectual laziness, you are certainly less qualified to have any say in my livelihood than are elected officials. Secondly, free trade is an inherently “nutty” idea, and you cannot be taken seriously while espousing it.

    Don’t believe for a second that social views like ending prohibition on victimless crimes, equal rights for all, opposition to capital punishment, or any of the rest are exclusive to libertarians. They do not come within spitting distance of justification for the every-man-for-himself economic concepts promoted by you and your ilk, and they often accompany more sound and rational views on commerce and taxation. As I said before, libertarianism is but one step below Objectivism on the crackpot ladder.

  142. Celtic_Evolution

    @ Dave -

    And your pithy little rant about Obama blah blah blah, terrorist, blah blah blah, cause the GOP tol’ me so why let the facts get in the way of a good argument blah blah blah, has what-all to do with this discussion?

    factcheck-dot-org, Dave… use it… life is so much better when you think for yourself.

  143. Dave Mears

    There’s no question that Ted Stevens is a kingly porker when it comes to earmarks, but generally earmarks aren’t asked for by the Governor, they’re congressional. Generally if you see an earmark, someone is either contributing to their campaign fund, self elation, or both. Earmarks bypass feasibility studies, competitive bidding, and often have nothing to do with the bills they are attached to. It’s like let’s give 23 million dollars to victims of rape (with a 3 million dollar earmark for a robert byrd monument.)

    Earmarks are basically bills that would never get enough votes if left to stand on their own, so they’re attached to more popular legislation and used as bargaining chips. There are procedures to follow – calling in a favor from this or that senator is basically using the wealth of the many for the good of the one. Hardly what federal spending should be about. Plus, what about the city or state? I’m sure the could negotiate something with Chicago’s tourism board.

  144. Whiny butt-hurt libertarians make me lol ^___^

  145. Goal achieved! Minor point in a debate results in dozens of relatively intelligent people wasting time looking up the specs on planetarium projectors and sniping at each other while lots of very serious stuff is going on outside.

    Congrats…you’re all part of the problem. Save your responses…I know I am too. Just think about it.

  146. Celtic_Evolution

    @ Tom Hill

    Concern noted.

    Perhaps we don’t consider it a minor point. Maybe YOU should think about that.

  147. Nigel Depledge

    Maria Myrback said:

    Thank you for explaining precisely what the piece of equipment is that was purchased. I still stand by my previous statement on the other entry, however. Why have the government pay for it? Have fund raisers. Charge admission. Find a way that does not force people who do not WANT to pay for things like this, to pay for it.

    A planetarium is a business like any other. If it isn’t supporting itself then restructure, cut back, do what needs to be done but don’t presume that *I* am happy to pay for it.

    So, presumably, you object to federal funding for any educational purpose, yes? After all, up until the early 20th century, all schools were either supported by fees or operated as charities. Those systems seemed to work for several hundred years (I attended a school that was founded in 1574 as a charitable work).

    Or, if not, consider that there may be people making these decisions that have access to more information than you do yourself. Why pick out planetaria and not other forms of education?

  148. Celtic_Evolution

    @ Nigel Depledge

    After all, up until the early 20th century, all schools were either supported by fees or operated as charities.

    Not exactly true, Nigel… I attended a school founded and publicly funded in 1635. In Boston.

  149. KillerChihuahua

    @ Celtic_Evolution -
    Don’t waste your time on Dave, he’s an AIG troll.

  150. @CE

    OK, so it’s a major issue to you. The discussion going on here is helping how…?

  151. Celtic_Evolution

    @ Tom Hill

    If that’s your attitude, then I suggest you cease and desist from further participating in it.

    That is all.

  152. Ah. Open-mindedness.

    All as well. (For now)

  153. Celtic_Evolution

    @ Tom Hill

    Don’t be so predictable, concern troll.

    Either contribute something worthwhile to the conversation, or don’t bother entering into it. It’s that simple. If YOU think the issue we’re debating isn’t worthwhile to you, fine, that’s certainly your right. But to come in here and start belittling the rest of us for deciding that it IS worthy of debate and discussion (3 threads, over 300 comments so far) is both arrogant and rude. And certainly not “open-minded”.

  154. Stacey

    Why didn’t Obama vote on that budget? I would have to say that both candidates are liars and we all know that. I love science and it is a fundamental part of our educations. In case you didn’t know, our economy is not so good and there is a crisis. Just be patient and a little understanding of America’s situation right now. It was very nice of Obama to get the budget submitted, but I still don’t understand why he didn’t vote on it. Guess getting it submitted didn’t ultimately do jack.

  155. Jose

    @Tom Hill
    Why does just about every long thread have someone pop in and take a shot at everyone for commenting? Does it make you feel big and important? Nobody here is under the delusion they’re changing the world.

  156. PhilB

    Woke up and saw you got the green light on Fark. Well done!!!

  157. Generalist

    My knee jerk response might make a decent political bumper sticker. “Hey McCain, get a brain.”

    It would be interesting to have a Q&A session where each candidate gets to bring in people that could serve as science advisors and ask each team a series of questions about basic science and cutting edge science.

  158. Zucchi

    For something really ridiculous, check out this National Review column by admitted racist “scientist” John Derbyshire:

    http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=Y2U5YTJiMzhjNDNhZTcwZGYyZjcyMzQyZWNmNjJjN2E=#more

    He posits that, if elected, Barack Obama will stifle genetic research for fear that it will discover politically untenable facts. (Although he doesn’t say so in this column, Derbyshire expects such research to prove the superiority of white people.)

  159. Hal's Dave

    There are too many dave’s here ~falls over~

  160. Mitch Miller

    If planetariums are so great why can’t they be a profitable private business?

  161. Dave

    # Bobby Thomas Says:
    October 8th, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    The image at http://www.astro.ucla.edu/planetarium/ <– is very telling of why those points of light get so expensive.

    "Public shows are FREE. No tickets or reservations required."

    That is indeed telling.

  162. Celtic_Evolution

    @ Mitch Miller

    Same question… libraries… go.

  163. Rachel

    I’m not usually one to post on these forums, but in this case, I feel I have a personal stake in the matter. As a former Adler employee, I have experience operating the so-called “overhead projector” in question. Planetarium projectors are highly sophisticated pieces of machinery that are able to immerse an audience in an environment that is literally out of this world. It is a shameful act of naivete to consider them simply “overhead projectors.” Modern projectors are growing ever more technologically advanced and unfortunately, expensive. I was disgusted by McCain’s characterization of these wonderful devices and his implied disdain for planetaria in general. Adler’s Zeiss is a great piece of equipment and treats many a student to a view of the night sky they simply cannot get in Chicago or even its farther flung suburbs. However, it is in great need of repair/replacement. It really is on its last legs and without an upgrade, Chicago-area students (and those who visit from across the country) will be much the poorer. The Mark VI was state of the art 40 years ago and it is a credit to the Adler’s technical staff that it is still working at all. Still, it is high time for the Adler to upgrade it to a projector on par with its counterparts in other major cities.

    Fundraising for science centers is no easy task and I can assure you Uncle Sam is not the only avenue the Adler is pursuing in raising funds for their new projector. However, if they can get help from the feds for their upgrade, more power to them! Regardless of whether or not you think the federal government should fund such projects, I think it is unfair to lump educational initiatives such as planetaria with other pork projects which truly are ridiculous. Furthermore, for each project the federal government funds that I do support, I suspect there are just as many projects I would not support and for which I would rather not pay. I don’t expect Congress to fund only those initiatives I find worthy, but I do expect them to support education. Educating children about science is never an act of “foolishness.” I am proud to have worked at the Adler and was heartened to see their response to McCain’s comments. Thanks also to the BA for setting the record straight about McCain’s disgraceful attitude.

  164. TheWalruss

    Gah, everyone – don’t feed the trolls please.

    When somebody makes a comment that adds nothing to the conversation, just let it go and read the next one. Comment on an interesting idea instead – ask some questions, foster discussion.

    If a troll causes the discussion to turn negative or become a meta-discussion (discussing the discussion), then it wins. I say – bleep’em (it being a family-friendly board).

    So yea – it’s very interesting to see the debates for me. I lived in the US for 12 years and just moved back to Europe (the Netherlands this time), and it’s wonderful to be amongst reasonable people – people who know that there are two things keeping out the sea.

    Those two things are Science and Democracy. You can’t have the one without the other, and living with neither would be absurd – not just for us in the low countries, but for every human being there is.

    NOW, the American people have a choice. I sincerely hope it’ll be the right one. The chances for McCain are very slim, the way I see it. But, the forces of Darkness are both strong and crafty, and people don’t often pay attention to things like the actual meanings of words in a debate, just how people look and sound (that’s how Palin “won” her first debate in many people’s eyes). How can we address this? Any ideas?

  165. Mitch Miller

    @ Celtic_Evolution

    I don’t think the government should fund libraries either.

  166. Celtic_Evolution

    I don’t think the government should fund libraries either.

    Yeah… I figured.

  167. Jason

    I hate to say it, but science runs on oil just like everything else: and there isnt anything to replace oil sufficiently if/when it runs out in the next few years.
    I’ve spent my life as pro-science as anyone, but America and the West have to realize 1) that we are all flat broke, actually in deep debt, and we dont have the savings to simply make it go away, 2) peak oil is approaching, if it hasn’t hit already, meaning production will start to diminish while demand continues to increase (combined with an ever growing demand in the rest of the world, reducing worldwide exports), meaning we might see oil rationing in the next few years (other technologies cannot fill this gap fast enough, we would need to increase nuclear power by a factor of 750, and solar/wind by 2000, hydrogen still costs more to extract [in energy] than it releases, and coal deposits are now only of the lowest grade variety [suggesting peak coal as well]), So 3) we cant spend money on planetariums, or libraries, or (sadly) NASA or anything (in fact, so many projects in progress, including most of suburbia, have to stop altogether), because there isn’t any money left (I wish there was, and I wish we could; and this isn’t pro-McCain, because neither candidate can seem to get this).
    The hard truth we might be facing is that there will be a deep recession, and everyone is going to lose big: old people on pensions will have to go back to work, consumerist lifestyle will have to stop completely, and everyone will have to drastically reduce their standard of living. At this point, there really aren’t other options that I can see, though I’d be happy to hear some.

  168. Todd W.

    @CE

    Sorry I’m late. Just got finished reading through all the posts.

    To the people who say that the federal funding of such things is unconstitutional, please provide some evidence other than your interpretation of the Constitution (i.e., Supreme Court decisions, letters or other documents by the writers of the Constitution that clarify their intent). As it stands, Congress is given the power to levy taxes, in part, for the general welfare, as already stated above and in the previous thread. That is vague language, yes. Because it is vague, and barring a Supreme Court decision on the matter, raising taxes and spending money on educational institutions by Congress is allowed. If you feel it is prohibited by the Constitution, then take your evidence to the Courts and do your best to have it decided in your favor.

    Please don’t complain that the Constitution is being abused if you do nothing to remedy the situation. That doesn’t mean you need to foot the bill for the legal case, but you should at least be taking steps to see such a case move forward. Band together, if you need to.

    @Mitch Miller

    Should the government support any educational institution? If no, then I assume that you feel that only the wealthy should be able to have an education?

  169. Jose

    If a troll causes the discussion to turn negative or become a meta-discussion (discussing the discussion), then it wins. I say – bleep’em (it being a family-friendly board).

    I think it’s better to shame the meta-discussioneers away. At least it’s more fun. Oh my god! I just realized we’re discussing the people discussing the discussion. I’m a meta-meta-discussioneer!

  170. I just posted the following, as a response to Phil’s excellent post, on my blog (Planetologist.net). So… who’s for Phil Plait for National Science Advisor? :D
    ——————————————-

    I’m with Phil Plait on this one, bigtime. When McCain carped a few weeks ago about Obama voting to give earmark money to a “planetarium in Illinois”, I had to stop short. Then again in Tuesday’s debate, he made a snippy remark about Obama giving money to a “planetarium in Chicago”. Wait, I thought, wouldn’t that have to be the Adler Planetarium? Yes, actually, it would be.

    The Adler Planetarium is a world-class educational facility, right on the water of Lake Michigan and one of a constellation of world-class educational facilities there including the Chicago Field Museum, the John G. Shedd Aquarium, and the Museum of Science and Industry. All of those are smack dab in the heart of one of the world’s biggest, busiest cities: Chicago, Illinois. According to the Chicago Office of Tourism, in 2006 over 45 million people visited Chicago, among them 32.8 million domestic vacationers and about a million foreign travelers. Those people spent $10.9 billion dollars in Chicago, on a top 10 list of visitor activities that include sightseeing and going to museums. Over 400,000 people visited the Adler Planetarium in 2006. Four hundred thousand people came to Adler and learned something amazing about their universe.

    How many of those 400,000 were children, either in school groups or traveling with their parents from a small town in America or from a foreign country? How many will go on to a career in science or engineering, because they went to Adler – or the Field Museum, or the Shedd Aquarium – and learned something cool? When I was a kid I went to the Smithsonian Institution with my parents, and I still vividly recall being blown away by the dinosaur skeletons, the minerals and crystals, the dioramas of ancient sea creatures long dead. I went home to my small town public library and read everything I could about fossils and evolution. Today I’m a geologist.

    I believe that government should support science education, not only in public schools but in museums and educational institutions. That doesn’t make me a Communist. That makes me someone who recognizes that having a civilization worthy of the name means we have to pool some of our resources to get valuable things done. Museums are a public good. Some museums are privately run, and they’re great places, but they have to charge admission to make ends meet. They’re forced to do that by necessity, and I can’t blame them for it. But I’ve lived in cities where museums are free, and in cities where museums charge $20 to get in the door.

    Where museums were supported by everyone in taxes – yes, cringe in horror at the dreaded curse of taxes – I saw lots of poor kids looking at fossils. Lower-income families with kids could go to the museum without foregoing a day’s worth of groceries. A museum their mothers could afford to visit got those kids away from a TV for a few hours on a weekend. Maybe it helped those kids realize there’s a gigantic world out there, and they can do great things one day.

    Where museums charged $20 a ticket (or more), I didn’t see those poor kids. I only saw nicely groomed, affluent kids. I’m glad those children of doctors and lawyers and business executives got to go to the museum, but it would be nice if the poor kids could have the chance, too.

    When McCain snarls about spending money on a planetarium, what he’s really saying is that government money should only be spent on worthy things, and education isn’t worthy of his exalted favor. He’s saying that the richest nation on Earth can’t afford to promote science, innovation and discovery, even though we became so rich and powerful because of science, innovation and discovery.

    Why pick on a planetarium, instead of some roads project, or military base, or power plant helped along by earmark money while Obama served in Washington? It’s because to McCain and his GOP ilk, education is a luxury to be reserved for the favored few. To them, bombs are better than books.

    Well. To them I say shut the hell up and get the frack out of the way. There’s going to be a new and better President coming to Washington in January, and he used to be one of those poor kids whose mother couldn’t afford museum tickets.

  171. Jose

    @Jason
    You can take the gun away from your head! I bring good tidings. If we take a tiny fraction of all the money we’re currently spending on unnecessary wars and financial bailouts, we can easily afford all these things.

  172. Celtic_Evolution

    @ Jose

    I’m a meta-meta-discussioneer!

    That’s fine, as long as you’re not using MY tax dollars to pay for it, dagnabbit.

  173. Quiet Desperation

    @DavidHW

    That suggests a modification to an old Steve Martin joke.

    John McCain wants to return to the American of his youth… an arctic region covered with ice. :-)

    Ah, even as I get old, age jokes are funny.

    Underneath all this, I really dislike mainly McCain for even running at his age. I could have stomached Mitt Romney far better. I know a couple Mormons here at my work, and they are quite good at keeping their religion and professional lives in separate boxes. Instead of saying Harry Potter should be put to death like the Evangelicals, they happily read Harry Potter to their kids.

    Actually, I’ve found Harry Potter to be an excellent litmus test for religious people to determine if they are above or below the True Woo level.

    I know, I’m rambling. I’m stuck on an FPGA problem here at work and needed a break.

  174. So McCain, who likes to portray himself as a caped crusader against earmarks, just voted for the $850 billion bailout (i.e., ripoff) package which contained dozens of earmarks. Of course, Obama voted for it too. Anyway, regardless of what you think about planetariums and their public funding, I think most of us could agree that the following earmarks that McCain and Obama just voted for are much, much worse, not to mention more expensive:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/03/MNR813AHDN.DTL

    $2 million tax benefit for the makers of wooden arrows for children

    $100 million for auto racetrack owners

    $192 million for producers of rum in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands

    $148 million for wool producers

    $49 million for plaintiffs in the Exxon Valdez oil spill case

    $33 million for corporations operating in American Samoa

    $478 million for Hollywood

    Yes conservatives, there is your caped crusader in action, complaining about a $3 million earmark that never was while voting for real earmarks worth hundreds of times that amount.

  175. Quiet Desperation

    I still like my idea of sending every child a copy of Starry Night Pro. Declaring the projector as some sort of general education of the populace seems innumerate. I’m admittedly pulling this educated guess out of my butt, but I would say, oh, about 98% of all children live more than 100 miles from the Adler Planetarium, and most like over 500 miles? I prefer the idea of getting things into the children’s hands where they can interact more directly.

    And then the idea struck me… Virtual planetarium. You wear these goggles, see, and you can look around at a virtual sky… You could give one to every school.

  176. Todd W.

    @QD

    Distance will be a non-issue as soon as they perfect transporter technology…just don’t get in the booth with any insects.

    And I totally agree with putting things in kids’ hands. We really need to educated them with real stuff, which is why I’m proposing the hands-on nuclear reactor, a science experience unlike any other! :)

  177. Celtic_Evolution

    @ QD

    I still like my idea of sending every child a copy of Starry Night Pro.

    Love this idea.

    Declaring the projector as some sort of general education of the populace seems innumerate.

    Let’s qualify that statement to make it relevant to this discussion by replacing “the projector” with “the Zeiss Star Projector” in a planetarium, and then I couldn’t disagree with you more.

    I’m admittedly pulling this educated guess out of my butt, but I would say, oh, about 98% of all children live more than 100 miles from the Adler Planetarium, and most like over 500 miles? I prefer the idea of getting things into the children’s hands where they can interact more directly.

    This is relevant to this discussion in that we’re talking specifically about funding for the Adler, but totally irrelevant to the discussion in that we’re also discussing the intrinsic educational benefit of planetaria (that’s for you, cusp)… of which there are far more than just the Adler. Thousands of them. And they are important in that, at the current time, they are the most realistic large-scale representation of star fields available. I think saying that you can totally replace the planetarium experience with home-based software on a 17 – 23″ monitor is completely off base.

    And as far as a virtual planetarium with 3-d goggles… well, great… If and when the day comes when the technology makes this possible and accurate enough in resolution and color, you could possibly afford to give one to every school… maybe even one to every class in every school… but how do you give lessons on astronomy to an entire class while only one student is wearing the goggles? And providing these goggles to every student would be far more expensive than say, having a publicly funded, inexpensive to access auditorium somewhere nearby where entire classes, even multiple classes could get a true, accurate representation of the night-time sky… you know… like a planetarium?

  178. I liked Elwood’s comment so much that I thought I’d just simply repeat it here, since it has gone more or less ignored in the rest of the thread:

    “You know, as a contractor providing genuinely needed support to the people serving our country, the notion of Government as this impersonal, wasteful, malevolent force akin to the Dark Side in “Star Wars” grows pretty old. Save for some monumental mistakes like unnecessary wars, tax revenue does not simply disappear into some type of bureaucratic black hole. Much of what the government does creates jobs, and eliminating or greatly reducing the government would by the same as forcing hundreds of large corporations to perform indiscriminate layoffs. When the government buys something, it is usually either produced or maintained by a U.S. firm. The salaries of contractors and government workers go right back in to local economies. And very few people associated with the government from the public or contracting side make the kind of money they could make if focused entirely on the private sector.”

    An earmark is usually part of a political compromise… they are attached to a bill in order to get elected representatives to vote for it. These elected representatives are fighting to stimulate the economies of their constituents, which is one reason why these people are elected in the first place by their constituencies.

    Which probably helps explain why Congress, as a body, has a horrible approval rating but Congressional individuals have pretty good ratings. People like it when their Congressperson stimulates their economy; they’re just not too keen on it spending money to stimulate some other state’s economy – the converse of NIMBY. Basic human nature would indicate that the only way to actually remove “earmarks” from the political process would be to get rid of constituencies, so Congresspersons can vote based upon their own judgment instead of trying to get re-elected. Hey! We’re not a democracy any more.

    Self-interest comes with democracy, get over it already. Any politician that claims they’re going to vote against any bill with earmarks attached (particularly when the opposing party is likely to control both houses of Congress) is either plainly deluded or spouting balderdash to the public in an attempt to get elected -> they simply will not be able to accomplish anything if they don’t take into account that the self-interest of the constituencies of the representatives is a major motivating political factor. You can’t claim to be a bipartisan negotiator without giving in to the fact that you’re going to have to sign bills with pork.

    Any federal spending is going to have some “waste” attached, if you define “waste” in a fashion that fits your political agenda. Requiring union labor? Well, that’s more expensive, and that translates into “waste”… unless you consider putting money into the pockets of union members that they can turn around and spend consuming goods in their local economy “waste”. Which you may or may not.

    Far too often these discussions digress into ridiculous tautologies, because the opposing parties are literally arguing based upon undefined terms. Far too often political discourse between party partisans fails in particular because both parties are constructed on a bewildering array of inconsistent root principles, that quite frankly are irrational.

    I’ll say this for Libertarianism – while it completely ignores human nature in its political thought process, it is at least logically consistent. Democrats and Republicans are usually not.

  179. Shawnotron

    I am a first time commenter for your blog, but I should say I have spent years reading it daily, nodding my head in agreement and generally thinking I would like to see the world full of people like you. But. I disagree with something you have written here.

    I, like you, am a skeptic. I made a decision early in life to use reason and logic while formulating or evaluating ideas or claims. My general rule of thumb for evaluating ideas with good logic is that the idea should be boiled down to it’s most basic form and then taken to it’s most logical extreme. Keep reading, I am going somewhere with this…

    I often think that if I ruled the country I would use my power to end almost every government program ever made; I am one of those people who thinks anything would be better if done in the free market than by the government. Yes, even roads. Yes, even schools. I also think I would dump all that freed tax money straight into scientific research, science education, public documentaries and especially NASA. NASA has my heart.

    This is why I don’t think I would make a great leader. My greatest desire in life is to know. Know what? Know everything I can know, as much as I can know. I would want to know more so completely that I would spend tons of tax money on the programs to find that knowledge, and as much as I think government sucks at providing anything equal in value to the money spent, I would convince myself it was worth it.

    Like I said before though, every idea must be boiled down to it’s basics and then taken to it’s logical conclusion. Taxation, when boiled down to it’s basics, means taking money by force, with a gun as your answer to any questions or objections. You can’t argue that theft is wrong, and I don’t believe the ends ever justify the means. Do you think that is extreme? Do you think there is more to it than that? Tell Bush you won’t pay for his war any more and see what happens.

    I am familiar now with being considered a nut for having this point of view, but I don’t think I am wrong. I want to end world hunger as much as the next pageant queen and I want to see space exploration the way Carl Sagan imagined it could be in his most wild dreams. But not at the expense of morality, and especially not if there is a better way.

    If we all tried a little harder to educate, (and I know you, Mr. Plait are working harder than anyone on this) and inspire those around us to learn. If we could all work harder to instil in others that sense of wonder we feel when we consider the beautiful, yet knowable, machinery of this universe. Maybe then we could have a world where people voluntarily give money to scientific research. A world where more people spend their free time solving problems. A world in which Space X is not the exception, but the rule.

    To take this idea to it’s most extreme. I don’t think we will get anywhere forcibly taking money from ignorant mystics to force a level of awareness, and a mass of information down their throats that they never wanted in the first place. I do think we will get somewhere in a world where humans behave as humans, and naturally desire to know and crave awareness. I think we all need to work towards that end. Sure we may need to be more inventive to get there without stealing any money in the process, but once we do get there, that theft wont be necessary any more.

    Maybe I am wrong, so if you think so let me know. I am always open to a good debate.

    -Shawn

  180. gss_000

    My problem with McCain’s comments is not that he’s against earmarks. That’s a typical way to peg Democrats as big spenders. What is troublesome is that the two examples he has used for wasteful earmarks have been science related. That, along with the choice of Palin who has some anti-science beliefs, starts to form a pattern that we’ve seen from our current President. If not, then he is just lying to get votes. Either way makes me not want to vote for him.

    PS. I find it funny that we’re talking about in total around 0.5% of the national budget per year for all earmarks combined. Now, that is the same as NASA’s budget, which is a shame, but not a huge amount compared to other expenditures.

    PPS.@Daniel about NASA outreach. NASA does do it. Almost daily you can find a report somewhere of NASA astronauts visiting schools and planetariums, and schools can even participate in projects int eh Explorer program (see http://education.nasa.gov/home/index.html). NASA has traveling exhibits that travel to various planetariums. Even funnier, NASA’s upcoming Future Forum is being held at the Adler tomorrow.

  181. Nigel Depledge

    Bill Tuttle said:

    Definitely not a foolish use of money. However, one that the Fed Gov has no business being involved in. Education should be handled from the State level, not dictated by the Feds.

    On the contrary. The lack of national standards is one reason (among several) that education in the US is, on average, so poor. Education policy should be set at a national level and managed locally.

  182. Nigel Depledge

    Celtic Evolution said:

    I attended a school founded and publicly funded in 1635. In Boston

    Ooh. This is new to me.

    But, if you guys were so enlightened then, what went wrong in the intervening time?

    Oh, I remember. Independence. ;-)

    (I jest, of course.)

  183. Sean O’Hara: “Whether or not a planetarium is a good thing to have around is a completely different question from whether the federal government should be spending money on it. It shouldn’t. Let the state or city handle it”

    What on earth is the philosophical difference between having the federal government fund it or the state or local government? It’s either an acceptable thing for government to pay for or it isn’t. Which government is a distinctly secondary issue.

    “— or even better, let the place operate as a business and get its capital expenditures from its own profits.”

    Sure. Let’s do that with schools too. And roads – every road a toll road! Great idea! NOT.

  184. Elmar_M

    Its like saying cactusses instead of cacti.
    I am sure that the same people who say planetariums also spell “our” as “whore” (seriously I have seen it and have pictures to proof) they also write “u” instead of “you” and “r” instead of “are” and “sumthin” instead of “something”. Sorry but some things are abominations of a language and/or a sign of lack of education. There should be a law against that.
    On the government intervention: I live in a country with government healthcare and that is not working very well. The health care institution is run by politician “bleep”crawlers that work badly and get payed way to much money. If the us wants public healthcare then you have to make sure that you look at certain countries in Europe that do have it and then make sure you do not make the same mistakes.
    If a government can not make sure that it employs people based on their expertise versus their political orientation, then any endeavour the government does will inevitably fail. This is a reality that I see here every day. While I am a social person at heart, the situation here can make you a libertarian sometimes, really.
    Read EVERYTHING our government does is worse.
    This is especially true for healthcare. Our public healthcare system here, which is mandatory, btw is about to go bankrupt, despite the government putting more and more money from taxpayers money into it.
    There is two reasons for that:
    1. Abuse. People that have never payed a dime into the system are getting out money for stuff like sex conversions, or just expensive treatments. Turkish women that already had seven children and nature says “you are used up, its over” get in vitro fertilization on government money. There are tons and tons of examples like this. It is also the main reason why the (separately managed) self employed social ensurance agency is doing better than the one that handles everyone else.
    2. Bad management. The people working there get payed way above average. Jobs are given purely for political reasons or because someones the friend of a friend that has a say. NOT because of qualifications. There are way to many employees doing way to little work. Often when there is a change in the government, people get a golden handshake (a few million euros) to be replaced by even less qualified bleepcrawlers.

    These are things that must not happen in the US, or public healthcare will be an expensive desaster.
    Dont get me wrong I believe that everyone should have the right to healthcare, but there have to be limits to what people get for how much and what they deserve. NOONE should die because they can not afford the necessary treatments, or because the insurance claims “preexisting condition”. This is horrible and barbaric and I am shocked that these things do happen in the US.
    Just dont screw up like we did please!

  185. Cheyenne

    http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/10/08/1518907.aspx

    Looks like Phil’s blog has taken the lead on this issue. It’s now cited at MSNBC and many others.

    Is Phil going to be the new Oprah for all things Astronomy? (to be clear I mean that as a compliment in terms of potential influence- it’s lame I have to say that but everybody around here is so freakin’ jittery all the time).

    I like the Adler, but it’s really showing its age compared to the Shedd and Field Museum (two world class museums right next to it). The Shedd just had a huge new facelift/addition (for Sharks….sweet!) and it wasn’t done with federal dollars- why should the Adler have them?

    I live in Chicago, love Museums, and particularly like science. But I don’t support federally funding The Adler. We should be embarrassed about the condition of Adler and get it fixed, but we should find the money from ticket sales and city and state budgets (which are bloated messes- Illinois and Chicago politics are a disaster).

    So I’m-
    -Pro-Adler- get it fixed- great, historic resource
    -Anti-Fed $- Ticket sales combined with state and local funding should be used instead
    -Thinking of 50 other issues that are way more important than this when I determine who to vote for

  186. Jason

    Jose, I understand what you are saying, but what I am saying is that we CANT afford those thing either. We cant afford anything! We are broke (in debt, 10 trillion, over 50 trillion if you actually plan to cover health care and pensions) with zero (yes zero) savings for the ordinary citizen to pay it off. Houses in suburbia are about to become obsolete, and I can only advise you to invest in gold/silver, oil, and renewable energy (its not going to be enough to compensate for oil, but people will be desperate to try it, so expect mass investment), because these are the only things that will provide any real growth during the hyperinflation to come. Otherwise, your money in your savings is gonna be gone (well it will still be there, but $50,000 is gonna be barely enough to buy groceries by the time the economic collapse hits in full force– keep in mind this isn’t the economy going down, per se, but rather the complete fraud that it was [based on debt] exposed and now people have to pay for it – and it just sucks that it will be us to a far greater extent than the big business guys who are slightly more responsible for this mess)

  187. @ Nigel Depledge

    Hey… stuff happens, ya know? :)

    Yessir… Boston Latin School… founded in 1635 (predating the founding of Harvard by 1 year), publicly funded by the Town of Boston. You can get more history on it by clicking my name…

  188. Quiet Desperation

    Celtic: This is relevant to this discussion in that we’re talking specifically about funding for the Adler, but totally irrelevant to the discussion in that we’re also discussing the intrinsic educational benefit of planetaria

    I know. I was just coming at it from a different angle. I think there’s general agreement that a planetarium has educational value.

    but how do you give lessons on astronomy to an entire class while only one student is wearing the goggles?

    Um, the same way you teach a lesson on astronomy *now* without a real planetarium? I never suggested you give every student a virtual planetarium and use them in day to day lessons. The virtual planetarium idea was just a fancy. I love ya, Celtic, but you project my posts sometimes into directions I never intended.

  189. Quiet Desperation

    @Jason

    Please cite some references to back up your predictions. KTHX.

    @Elmar

    I think most ideas for universal healthcare in the USA involve the government just paying the bills, and not having, say, doctors and nurses and surgeons be government employees or anything like that.

  190. QD

    I know. I was just coming at it from a different angle. I think there’s general agreement that a planetarium has educational value.

    OK… I guess I hadn’t seen that, or inferred that, from your posts up until now… but there it is, and so I’m with you…

    I love ya, Celtic, but you project my posts sometimes into directions I never intended.

    Me?? I would never! ;)

    Thanks for clarifying for me, QD… and sorry if I’ve mis-represented you.

  191. Cheyenne

    This is definitely one of those “all publicity is good publicity” moments.

    Adler hasn’t been on the mind of people in a long time. Now it is. I’d be willing to bet my next paycheck that they have their new Zeiss by next year (without federal dough by the way).

  192. KC

    “Do you guys really mean to tell me that despite the huge advances in technology, the Zeiss is still the most cost-effective way of projecting stars?”

    I don’t think that’s what was being proposed but in a word yes. A lot of planetariums are upgrading to digital technology but right now mechanical projectors, even old ones, far exceed the resolution of a digital one.

  193. Elmar, from my experience growing up in a country with universal healthcare and an overblown bureaucracy is this: the European systems work (sometimes badly, sometimes well) for everyone. the U.S. system works excellently for maybe 1%, averagely to badly for most others, and not at all for a disturbingly large number of people. Mismanagement etc aside… what European country has an average of 20000 people die from simple lack of health insurance? (usually i think those are caused by people delaying to go to a doctor until it’s too late) and how many have people go bankrupt at the same rate for health-problems?

    the European systems need slimming and reform. the U.S. system needs a total overhaul.

  194. My-Name-is-Kenneth

    There seem to be so many smart people out there.

    But why did you let Bush win TWICE?

    Is McCain going to be next?

    Will Paris Hilton become Secretary of the Treasury?

  195. Celtic_Evolution

    But why did you let Bush win TWICE?

    In our defense, it’s debatable whether he actually won the 2nd time…

  196. Celtic_Evolution

    Ummm… I meant the first time… sheesh… it’s way too early in the day for me to be this drunk…

  197. excellent article! Excellent points! …waiting for McCains’ apology…this could take a while

  198. Joe

    I was appalled by McCain’s statement about Alder. I visited it once way back in 1993 and I would love to go back someday and see it again. Phill, I totally agree with you!

  199. Joe

    Sorry for the typo I meant Adler!

  200. Quiet_Desperation

    C: Thanks for clarifying for me, QD… and sorry if I’ve mis-represented you.

    No prob.

    K: But why did you let Bush win TWICE?

    You had to be there, I guess. Plenty of analysis to be googled.

    Here’s one: http://poq.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/69/5/744

  201. Todd W.

    @CE

    I was going to say the first time. He kinda stole that one through a bit of help from ol’ Jeb, his brother, governor of Florida. The second time…I really don’t know what the hell happened. Bunch o’ people drank crazy juice or were gassed or something before hitting the polls.

  202. Dak Irw

    First time commentator here…

    While I don’t disagree that planetariums are cool, I strongly disagree with you about earmarks. Earmarks are usually characterized as pork barrel projects no matter how noble the goal is.

    For this planetarium example, I agree that funding a planetarium would be great. However, the proper source of funding is the local community that would benefit from said planetarium! The earmark practice is corrupting – it leads politicians to support wasteful projects for other districts because they want their own pet projects to get approved.

  203. Ray

    Todd,

    I would note that recounts by several bodies confirmed that Bush won in Florida in 2000. Even Al Gore has given up on beating that dead horse.

  204. Todd W.

    @Ray

    I feel better thinking that he stole the election. It keeps away the dark, dark depression at the thought of how foolish the American people were.

  205. Cusp

    Celtic – when you get a minute, have a read of a book on English style.

  206. Celtic_Evolution

    Cusp -

    Thanks… I was an English major in college… pretty sure I’m covered there.

    I already asked you to have a look at the most widely used English dictionary… not sure I can help you much beyond that…

  207. Celtic_Evolution

    In fact cusp, I’ve now looked at 5 different online dictionaries (Merriam-Webster, Cambridge, dictionary-dot-com,Encarta, and American Heritage) and the one sitting here on my desk… every one says the same thing.

    Plural of planetarium: planetariums or planetaria.

    What more can I tell you?

  208. Danny

    lol.. what a bunch of crybabies. I hope someone kicks over your projector.. GO McCAIN!! NO BAMA..

  209. Proud to be Conservative

    I don’t need a $3 million star gazing projector to spark awe and neither does the government need to pay for my personal pleasure of experiencing that awe. Have we lost site of looking up at the sky at night and viewing the galaxy in its natural state? Have we lost site of what governments’ role should be in our lives? Programs, research, and other items like the star-gazer will be funded if that is what the public deems in important. If the government needs to support non-essentials because they cannot make it on their own, then perhaps we should question if it is truly something we value as a whole society instead of just a few minorities. I agree with the comment above that the Adler Planetarium should be privatized and allowed to support itself instead of burdening the government and taxpayers with the need for public funds. The employees of the Planetarium will benefit and so will the public because most private organizations pay their employees better and will seek to find the best “projector” their budget can bear.

  210. JohnG

    I have chafed at McCain’s comments about studying the dna of bears. I say thank what ever his name is that there is someone who is interested enough to study a bear’s dna. If that interest hadn’t been suppressed by political/religious ‘leaders’ over the centuries, who knows what great inventions and cures we would have today. Earmarks and set asides is not the way to fund such things, but funded they must be!

  211. Trykt

    Gonna chime in and say interesting discussion going on here (if a bit uncivilized at times), the activity on these posts has been crazy!

    I agree with Shawnotron, Elmar_M, Dark Irw, and most of the Libertarian-oriented posts as well. You guys have already said what I’d like to say, so thanks for that :D

    For the record, I talk about astronomy (and this site) so much my friends tell me to shut up about it, but I still think Federal money for a planetarium is at least a LITTLE eyebrow-raising (please don’t interpret this as sympathy for McCain, I have none).

  212. Ken

    The vast majority here have confused & equated FUNDING SOURCES with an END USE.

    “Porkbarrel earmarks” are those from the FEDERAL government for projects that ought not be funded by the FEDERAL government. Clearly there is a value judgement on where to draw the line regarding what the FEDERAL goverment funds and other government entities, such as STATE & CITY goverments.

    Asserting that a given project is “porkbarrel” relative to FEDERAL funds only means that some other source of funds is more appropriate. It does not mean the given project is unworthy.

    Thus, McCain only said that FEDERAL funds were inappropriate to the planeterium’s projector. That assertion is NOT a value-judgement regarding the merits or demerits of planetariums.

    As a blogger above noted, the planetarium essentially serves a community within a few/few hundred miles of the facility. That indicates STATE & Local funds are the appropriate source.

    You science types ought to make the effort to apply the intellect to address these nuances instead of taking superficial knee-jerk approach that’s so easy….but misses the basics relevant to the issue/statement.

  213. Todd W.

    @Ken

    While the immediate benefit is to the local community, the longer lasting benefits derived from the planetarium benefit the country as a whole. Plus, being a national historic landmark also expands its significance. In the end, it serves the nation.

  214. Shawn

    I’m voting for McCain. Fools pay attention during the intense part of the campaign. Eveyone looks for any little slip and blows it way out of proportion. Go back in time (it’s a theory) before the crappy people surrounded the candidates. McCain’s record is excellent. He serves and he serves well. He makes folks mad because he actually does something. He has been able to get folks from both sides of the isle to work together. Obama will say whatever it takes to win. I’ve watched the up-and-comer with amusement. He’s slick and has a lovely personality – that’s about it. Sorry, I don’t want a lovely personality for my president – science or no science.

  215. Bruce Peterson

    First off, Mccain is right, this is an earmark, it was inserted into a bill in an attempt to get it past any questions about its need. Even if it was valuable, let it stand on its own.

    Second, it is a glorified projector.

    thirdly, If a planetarium is worth federal money and so important to the people of the midwest, who could easily afford it (how much do they spend on football and baseball stadiums and players each year?) then why not use federal money to build them in less populated areas, like North Dakota. Oh wait, there aren’t as many votes out here, and scientists really do not think panetriums are that important.

    fourthly, someone said that private planetariums are costly. i bet not as much as the gym shoes that kids just have to have, or the NBA team apparel they need, or their cell phones, etc. If the issue were really education, then it would be more important than those things.

    lastly, i visited a planetarium when I was in the 8th grade, and had alraedy seen everything I neede to know, I read books stood outside with my dad and learned the constelations with my dad. So, get away from the city lights, turn off your cell phone, get a book, and learn by looking up. Amazing, no computer, no tech, just a little knowledge, and time.

    If Chicago can’t raise the money, maybe they should keep their wonderful senator in Illinois and raise the money. he seems to be good at that. How amny planetariums could he have build with his campaign money instaed of his lies about Mccain we see on TV.

  216. Jason

    As far as economics go, I am not a Libertarian (or a Ron Paul supporter) but the Austrian school of economics has its strengths: namely that savings, not debt should drive the economy, and that the Fed is a corrupt, institution that pumps money into existence by taxing you without consent through inflation. Here’s economist Peter Schiff predicting the economic downturn two years in advance:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfascZSTU4o

    (more to come in following posts…)

  217. Jason

    More from Peter Schiff, who predicts that Gold will match (or surpass) the DOW within a few years (or less), and realizes that America is heading for a terrible recession because it imports everything and doesnt produce anything:
    http://www.europac.net/video.asp

  218. Celtic_Evolution

    As a blogger above noted, the planetarium essentially serves a community within a few/few hundred miles of the facility. That indicates STATE & Local funds are the appropriate source.

    Oh good grief, Ken… virtually EVERY building in the ENTIRE WORLD falls into this category. Thus, using your logic, no facility whatsoever should be provided federal government funds. And yeah… I know that’s what you libertarians have been saying all along. So excuse me while I ask you how many of these wonderful, libertarian based governments there are out there thriving and doing well?

    The question is part snark, part serious… I may just not know of them, and I’d like to know if they are out there.

    Oh… and enough of the McCain apologetics, ok Ken? His use of the term “overhead projector” was intentionally demeaning and misleading, and the example he chose was quite intentional.

  219. Jason

    http://www.chrismartenson.com/crashcourse
    Watch videos 8 – 16 for (the best explanation I have found) for the severity of the recession.

  220. Jason

    The most important video that I will list, to understand what Peak Oil is and what it means:

    http://www.chrismartenson.com/peak_oil

  221. Ken

    Note that Congress–predominantly occupied by Democrats–did NOT fund the planetarium projector earmark: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/ynews_pl78

    Thus, some can harp on McCain being anti-science, etc. but the FACT is that he expressed a bi-partisan majority opinion that most Democrats agreed with where it mattered — in the final vote — on this particular subject. If the Democrats disagreed the outcome would have been different.

    This example was NOT a political issue, and NOT an issues associated with the candidate’s perceieved value of a specific planetarim or planetariums in general–it was a FUNDING SOURCE issue ONLY.

    To present this Democrat-decided issue as a McCain [or Republican] policy or other matter is misrepresenting reality out of, based on the blogs above, ignorance or worse.

    And for a science blog to miss the point, by people who ought to know a lot better about assessing & weighing the appropriate facts & figuring out how complicated things work is pretty inexcusable.

    From the referenced link: “The Adler Planetarium even issued a statement, noting that the request, ironically, was not even funded:

    “”To clarify, the Adler Planetarium requested federal support — which was not funded — to replace the projector in its historic Sky Theater, the first planetarium theater in the Western Hemisphere…. To remain competitive and ensure national security, it is vital that we educate and inspire the next generation of explorers to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.”"

  222. Jason

    More on Peak Oil (I’ll try to stick to the most mainstream organizations):
    http://www.peakoil.net/
    http://www.postcarbon.org/

  223. Jason

    I’d also recommend searching for names like: Richard Rainwater, Richard Heinberg, M. King Hubbert, Colin Campbell, or David Goodstein (I figured people on ‘Bad Astronomy’ might like a physicist)

  224. Jason

    I finally recommend that you do some research for yourself, and just look at the subject of peak oil (though it is not the happiest of subjects), and I would be delighted to see strong counter-arguments, because I am becoming more of a pessimist on this subject all the time (even the most optimistic projections have peak oil occuring within 10-15 years [others are saying it has already peaked], and the idea that ‘peak oil’ isn’t ever going to happen hasn’t done much to convince me)

  225. I don’t see why ANY government should provide funding for this project. If the planetarium is not popular enough or well managed enough to maintain it’s operations on the proceeds it gets from entrance fees or from donations, why should someone in California have their hard earned money taken to support it? I am sure the place is great for field trips and such, but do something with the place. I don’t see Disney with a hand out to keep their parks open. Beside, kids probably learn more and are inspired more by places like Disneyland that this planetarium. To infinity and beyond!

  226. Planetariums are great, and I support their creation. On the other hand, it has nothing to do with funding science in America. It’s an entertainment venue for kids, with incidental and vague science education benefits. The American scientific community would do well to avoid becoming another bloated special interest group which bleats every time the government vaguely pulls the teat away. It’s not like we’ve been doing great things for the nation in the last 40 years or so. Budgets go up. Output is way down compared to, say, 1960. You may argue that all the low hanging fruit is gone; that’s a great argument for cutting national science funding.

  227. Get over yourself….the only reason they got a $3m dollar telescope is so Obama could receive the $100k kick back that he got – It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that (or does it). That expensive tube will come in real handy to try and find any logic or reasoning behind someone that would vote for a person with no morals and absolutely no experience.

  228. Rocky63

    I love planetaria. But why is it the responsibility of the Federal government to pay for them?

    The members of this blog seem to think the Federal government is there to support them — as do so many other special interest groups. Why should a construction worker in Cleveland who loves NFL football and NASCAR racing, Budweiser and action movies be required to pay taxes to subsidize the National Endowment for the Arts? Why shouldn’t a wealthy, well-educated socialite who never misses an exhibition at the Chicago Art Institute be required to pay taxes to subsidize stock car races?

    Rocky

  229. “That assertion is NOT a value-judgment regarding the merits or demerits of planetariums. ”

    Obama (and now Biden as well) have made their earmarks public; out of that extensive list, McCain (or his staffers) thought a request from a planetarium would showcase the wastefulness of earmarks best…? THAT is a value judgment.
    Bonus points: compare and contrast with Alaska’s earmarks and bridges-to-nowhere.

    Earmarks are a very bad way of getting anything funded, but using a planetarium as THE example, and calling it foolishness and diminishing the equipment IS a value judgment, nothing else.

  230. Jason

    I find it interesting that know one is asking the pertinent question, “What has Obama done?” All he has done is run for president, he’s spent about 140 days in the Senate, roughly 6 months of work…WOW! I don’t believe either of these guys deserve to be the president, but the OBAMA media and the kool-aid drinking supporters have lost their minds. If Illinois wants a 3 million dollar planetarium, I’m cool with that, but pay for it yourselves, how does that benefit the average Americans who end up paying for it. We have become a nation of baby’s! Everything is politically correct, equal opportunity, censored and fat free! I’ve lived all over the world and it’s unfortunate that we are viewed the way we are, but I still love my country and love my fellow Americans. We might all have different views and opinions or religious backgrounds, but when push comes to shove we all share a common pride in being free!

  231. Steven Chan

    It is either Mr McCain makes claims without proper information or he just intentionally distort facts to try to get votes. I am really disappointed of the latter is the reason he made the claim. But if he would publicly correct that he had stated something wrong, I think I think “let him go,” as it is impossible for everyone to know bit of detail of everything.

    Too bad we live in a society that people will listen and believe in such statements. I am very glad that someone pointed out McCain was wrong. Too bad, damage was done. Nine Joes out of ten will never actually get the facts straight.

    Welcome to the world of misinformation, noise, and truthiness.

  232. Mitch Miller

    From Todd W.
    “Should the government support any educational institution? If no, then I assume that you feel that only the wealthy should be able to have an education?”

    The government should not financially support educational systems. I do not think that only the wealthy should be able to be educated.

  233. Jason Perry

    Planetariums are, whether we like them or not, are discretionary spending and they should not be funded through earmarks. Those are not stable funding sources. I have no problem with their funding, and I again, see nothing in what McCain has said that suggests he has one, other than the way the funding was passed.

    Meh, thanks to mail-in balloting, I’ve already voted. It unfortunately looks like Obama will win this one. Hopefully the Obama Youth will go away after the election (really, why don’t these morons just wear red armbands like their predecessors).

  234. B S Kumar

    Every great example that America has set towards the progress of mankind has come from science, knowledge, technology, and the pursuit of new horizons in these spheres. I’m not even American and I am appalled at John McCain’s comment. People who vote for him are signing on for stupidity of the worst kind, and I am amused to see that moose hunter tagging along with him everywhere!

  235. Ashley the Historian

    Planetaria are wonderful…I am in no way, shape, or form a McCain supporter, but this makes me respect him even less (as if that was possible).

  236. Ken

    McCain picked an earmark (a planetarium projector) that a bi-partisan majority dominated by Democrats agreed with him on: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/ynews_pl78

    The Democrat-controlled Congress denied the earmark. McCain happened to agree.

    Get it? He used as an example an earmark that failed to make muster by the Democrats. This example was something that didn’t happen — he merely applied “20-20 hindsight” with an earmark example that the majority (of Democrats) agreed ought not be funded.

    For all the McCain-bashing on this subject — the same remarks thus apply tothe Democrat majority that voted such this earmark was excluded.

    Thus, some can harp on McCain being anti-science, etc. & making a value judgement but the FACT is that he expressed a bi-partisan majority opinion that most Democrats agreed with where it mattered — in the final vote — on this particular subject. If the Democrats disagreed the outcome would have been different.

  237. Cusp

    Celtic – Yes, I know what the dictionary says, but modern emphasis is the adding an s rather than latin endings.

  238. “I don’t see Disney with a hand out to keep their parks open. Beside, kids probably learn more and are inspired more by places like Disneyland that this planetarium”

    the day they disneyfy planetariums/museums will be the last day of science in this country. like i said, edutainment replacing real education is the worst thing that can happen to science.

    “the only reason they got a $3m dollar telescope is”
    they didn’t get it, and it wasn’t a telescope. fact-check first, talk later.

    “The government should not financially support educational systems. I do not think that only the wealthy should be able to be educated.”

    1) for-profit education and universal education are mutually exclusive, so SOME government must fund SOME part of it, at least.
    2) leaving education funding etc. purely to the local level is a surefire way to remove a vast chunk of the U.S. population from the competitive, global job-market. a certain standard is required to keep the U.S. competitive, and letting local farmers decide that their kids don’t need to know what happened 1000 years ago/what a molecule is/how to do math beyond simple addition and multiplication is generally not a good idea

  239. Tom

    Here’s a way to start the process of reforming our federal government:

    http://www.downsizedc.org/blog/downsizers+vs.+upsizers

    “…In one week, Sept 22-26, the Senate passed an astonishing 73 bills totaling 1,031 pages. The House went far beyond that, passing 113 bills and 1,744 pages…”

    Do you think they had any idea what *precisely* they voted on?

    Join Downsize DC and start pressuring our elected officials to SLOW DOWN and read the bills, then vote on what was read, not some back room hodgepodge of “Mom, apple pie, and, um, that new law to do something evil, or spend lots of money on the wrong things”. NOBODY wants to vote against “Mom & Apple Pie”!

  240. “really, why don’t these morons just wear red armbands like their predecessors”

    because, despite the illusion many Americans have about this, Obama is solidly on the right side of center (in a global political spectrum)

  241. CaliTaxPayer

    Why is it that Federal Taxpayer Dollars NEED to be spent on a fantasmical doohicky for the benefit of one local planetarium and it’s patrons? However wonderful and precious this “overhead projector” is, it’s not a federal issue. Let the planetarium hold a bake sale or seek private donations from philanthropic organizations if this is important to that community. Doling out federal tax dollars for local projects is WASTEFUL, regardless of the “cool-factor” involved in said project. Part of being fiscally responsible is correctly identifying priorities that DEMAND attention and setting aside all the things we’d really really really like to have because it’d be neat, and stuff. When we face economic obstacles, huge deficits, a collapsing social security system and weakening currency things like really super great educational aids meant to wow kids on field-trips and dazzle tourists need to be viewed as being the responsibility of the organizations and local governments that stand to directly benefit.

    Seriously, there are REAL issues to consider when choosing a candidate to vote for and anyone who is so obtuse that they’ll twist objections to wasteful spending into some, “John McCain is anti-science” thing, is just being dishonest.

  242. Bruce

    McCain is insane. Without science we would be a lost. It is absourd that he would even bring something like sience and exploration up. The man is grasping at straws.

  243. Dave C

    I am with all those who have stated that the federal government shouldn’t be funding a plan-eh-arium [see South Park] in Chicago. McCain has it right when he says that earmarks are a symptom of a larger problem. The federal government is supposed to be a government of limited powers (see, for example, the 10th Amendment), but that has been obliterated in the last 75 years or so. Thus, we have a government that has placed everyone under 40 (and those U.S. citizens not yet born) on the hook for _trillions_ of dollars of mandatory spending, and not a single politician is willing to admit that, for example, Social Security benefits _must_ decrease, in addition to payroll taxes almost certainly having to increase. And that’s just to ensure SS is viable for about 60 years. If birth rates continue to decline and net inward migration stays roughly where it is, even more changes will be needed.

    As with SS, every spending program ends up with vocal advocates, and thus it is impossible to ever even _freeze_ spending, let alone cut it (look at the line Obama had about S/CHIP in the 2nd debate – McCain simply voted against _expanding_ that program, and Obama makes it sound like he wants to let orphans die of TB in the streets). Hard choices are coming soon, though. Nondiscretionary spending already eats up more than half of overall Federal expenditures, and baby boomers are just _starting_ to get old (read: sick) and retire. When it comes to pass that only about 25% of federal money is available for discretionary spending, what will we choose? I guarantee you there isn’t a majority in America that will choose plan-eh-ariums over, say, student loan programs or federal transportation project subsidies.

    Also, to cusp, you said “In english, the plural of planetarium is planetariums – latinizing words is not english – it’s pure pomposity” then you said “Yes, I know what the dictionary says, but modern emphasis is the adding an s rather than latin endings.” If an English dictionary states that it is proper to pluralize with an ‘a’ rather than an ‘s’, how is the former “not english?”

  244. Mike Field

    As a boy in Chicag0 I was a visitor the Adler Planetarium. Back then, they had a scary-looking Zeiss machine which resembled a giant insect from a horror movie. Later, they switched to a newer Zeiss machine which for the most part did the same thing as the old one, and resembled some kind of high-tech device in a sci-fi movie, maybe an all-powerful particle beam cannon. It didn’t scare anyone, however.

    Nothing wrong with a new planetarium, but does wealthy Chicago (and I do know there are lots of poor people there. I was one of them) really need to raid the federal budget to update their planetarium, which I am sure will even less scary than whatever they have now?

    Scary is good. Isn’t that what “bad” astronomy is all about?

  245. Todd W.

    @Mitch Miller

    Without some measure of government support, educational systems will need to turn, at least in some measure, into a for-profit enterprise. College, already, is beyond the means of a woefully large portion of the population. What you suggest would bring that same problem to K-12 education, meaning that only those with the means to pay the appropriate fees would be able to send their kids to school. Ergo, the poor would likely be uneducated, while the wealthy could be. What remedy do you propose to avoid a situation such as this?

    @those against the projector funding and saying McCain is right

    1) Sen. Obama was not the only person involved in that appropriation. It involved members of Congress from both parties. McCain misled the public in giving the impression that Obama was the only one responsible.
    2) Sen. Obama did not vote for that bill. McCain misled the public again in implying that he did vote for it.
    3) The bill did not pass and Adler Planetarium never received the $3M. McCain misled the public by implying that the money was given to the planetarium.
    4) McCain mischaracterized the projector by calling it an “overhead projector” and the funding of the planetarium project specifically “foolishness”.

    Sen. McCain’s behavior on this subject does not speak well to his character.

    OT to the original post, but addressing some of the concerns people have raised in the commnts regarding whether or not the federal government should be allowed to fund such things to begin with, the Constitution has no clear and specific prohibitions against such an act. If you feel that Congress has no business funding such things as educational institutions, then work to get them to stop. Put together a case to bring before the Supreme Court to get your interpretation of the Constitution made into the law of the land. Lobby to get laws passed to stop such spending. If you feel that strongly about it, become active to fix what you see as the problem.

    And before you respond to me, note that I am not saying anything that directly supports or criticizes Obama. I’m trying to turn the conversation back to the original point of the post: that McCain has behaved in a manner that is dishonest and disrespectful of science and education. Any critique of how Obama may be unsupportive of science and education is a topic for a different thread.

  246. Scott Trom

    Hey you “Astro Wackjobs” you’re about to get your government entitlement, grant-grabbing hands and heads handed to you! As our economy goes full-tilt meltdown, y’all had better remember, McCain supports are also planetarium benefactors and patrons. I think you all need to take a deep breath and figure out what is REALLY important at THIS MOMENT! Grow up!

  247. Will

    It’s a load of crap federal tax money is being used on this. The money should come from the planatarium, city, and maybe state; not the federal government. McCain is right on this one. Add this bill up with all the other bill for state and city projects and all I see is waste. What I want to know is what this damn planetarium is doing for me? Is it defending my country? Protecting my rights? Keeping up the infrastructure of federal transportaion assets? Investigating Federal crimes? The answer is no. If the answer to any of the above is no for any project, then money should not be sent. This is a state issue at the very least, not federal. You dumbasses want to wander why we are in debt and government doesn’t work? Well, here is one of you answers.

  248. KARL

    SCIENCE IS GREAT BUT NATIONAL SECURITY IS GREATER…HOW MANY PEOPLE CAN HIDE UNDER THIS PROJECTOR WHEN OBAMA’S GLOBAL INEXPERIENCE GETS US ATTACKED WITH AIRBOURNE BOMBS?…..MCCAIN DID NOT CALL PLANETARIUMS FOOLISHNESS!!!:HE AND ANY OTHER AMERICAN FAMILIAR WITH U.S. BUSSINESS KNOW THAT WHEN THE GOVERNMENT FOOTS THE BILL FOR SOMETHING THE PRICETAG TRIPLES!

  249. Felix

    I would like to thank John McCain for his comments, when I read them I immediately looked up my nearest planetarium and took my kids there. :-)

    We had a great time!

  250. gabe

    “McPain’s” mistake does not only talk about his own ignorance on the matter (that in the end might be even forgiven). More important, it speaks volumes about the utter ignorance of the people working on his campaign (and by extension on the quality of the people that can be drawn on the Republican Party)… who in his right mind would trust those guys to handle the economic mess we’re in???

  251. ExRepub

    Palin and her husband belong to an Anti American Group that thinks Alaska should NOT be part of the USA and they spout off about not having to follow the same laws the rest of us follow. Vermont ranks #1 as the smartest state while ALASKA ranks #46. Palin left Wasilla Alaska in Debt and a legal battle. Palin’s rally in Alaska was empty and people seemed un-happy, while down the street at the same time was an Obama rally that was packed with upbeat people and the crowd was Huge. Even Alaskans don’t like Palin. Problem for McGrampy is…He picked her.

  252. @ Ken, et. al.

    To claim that those who support science are misrepresenting this event is sort of an odd position to take.

    John McCain, in an attempt to color his political opponent as being an irresponsible, wasteful legislator, misrepresented this budgetary request using deliberately couched language suggesting to the common viewer that (a) the piece of equipment was overpriced by a three orders of magnitude and (b) that planetariums are not a reasonable destination for money.

    You cannot argue that his descriptive language for the piece of equipment in question is not intentionally misleading.

    You can certainly argue that McCain’s second proposition is correct, given *your* stance regarding the source of money. You are certainly welcome to your opinion in regards to what should be the proper role of the federal government in the management of tax revenue (regardless of the practical reality of what that current role is).

    However, it is certainly reasonable for people, who disagree with your stance on the what the availability of federal funds should be and the priorities of the disbursement of said funds, to propose that *McCain’s position* represents an anti-science bias, given that he obviously believes that the federal government should spend money on things *other than what your standards indicate are appropriate*.

    He just signed off on an $800 billion economic intervention program (which by your own stated positions here you must regard as irresponsible spending), ergo he obviously disagrees with your criteria regarding the use of federal funds. Therefore, it is fair to judge *his actions* using the base criteria that the federal government has the power to spend tax dollars in areas the federal government wishes to spend those tax dollars, not in the areas you wish them to.

    He believes in government intervention in areas you don’t. By his characterization of the economic bailout package as necessary and this expenditure as egregiously irresponsible, he is therefore revealing a decidedly clear preference towards economic intervention while demeaning interventions that have a scientific and educational value.

    That qualifies for calling this action “anti-science”, relatively speaking.

  253. t

    The question to ask is why aren’t the democrats spending some of the more than $250 million they are spending on the presidential race on this stuff. They are hoping that President Obama will hook up with Speakers Pelosi and Sen Reid and spend way more than $250 million on stuff like this. The fact remains that a planetarium is a LOCAL attraction. It should be paid for with LOCAL money. Before a city takes on an attraction like this that takes money to maintain, they have to ensure they can maintain it. Does anyone think that it is worth 30 teachers’ salaries for a year to have a new projector in a planetarium? I don’t. There are better places for that money to go. Fund Local benefits and attractions locally.

  254. Jason 2

    Hmm, there seems to be 2 Jasons on this forum:
    I guess I’ll be Jason 2, Im the one talking about Peak Oil and the Economy and that we dont have any more money to spend on anything.

  255. Elmar_M

    Ok, just to clarify this, my post was maybe coming over a bit more libertarian than it was meant to be.
    I am for public healthcare, just to make this clear, for! But it has to be done right. Here in my country it was done wrong. The result is that you get 3rd class treatment for paying at least 20% (!) of your income. That is a lot of money, especially for poor people. People that make more money pay even more % of their income for this. So to make this somewhat clear, if you make 1000 Euros a month in income you end up paying roughly 300 Euros a month for social security here.This is not cheap considering the low income used as an example here. Yet, you only get 3rd class treatment (share rooms in hospitals with 10 other patients). Yet our main social securita institution is still going bankrupt. Besides these people are liers and betrayers too (they had plans to cancel their contracts with all doctors already before the last election but tried to keep it secret to not harm the ruling parties at the election, it came out though, people here are not that stupid anymore).
    Anyway, the thing is that these are issues where governments can fail. I have seen it myself. A good US government will still do public healthcare, but will take a good look at systems that failed like ours here and will take precautions that theirs wont fail for the same reasons. Given, our system is amongs the oldes in Europe, so anyone coming after us has an advantage and can learn from us.
    Btw, in case not everyone has seen it yet:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/ynews_pl78
    Its frontpage news and they even mention Bad Astronomy :)

  256. Russ

    Sounds like a bunch of Creationists. Saying things like you are ignorant, stupid, how dumb can you get etc. close the door to progress and dialog more often than not. Science education and education in general need funding but more over the need to support starts at the lowest level and continuies to the top not the other way around. When politicians peg you (the voter) as stupid or gullible they ignore your voice and do what they think is best for you. They are smarter than you or you wouldn’t have voted them into office to take care of things. If on the other hand you think that politicians in office are still accountable for their actions. You know what to do.
    Pork barrel politics is not the way to get funding for anything. This was minor compared to most. I do however agree that Planetariums are a good cause so why not have the guts to fund it through the front door. Political pandering is however alive and well and practiced by all parties not just the Big 2.

  257. Edward

    “For McCain to use this as a political zinger is insulting, and for him to call it foolishness is beyond the pale. ”

    What’s “insulting” is the idea that the entire country of taxpayers should contribute to a project that is solely within Illinois. If IL has extra money right now, by all means, they should fund this.

    What’s “foolishness” is the idea that the U.S. Senate is a playground where people try and grab cash from nationwide to send back to one state. Section I, Article 8 of the Constitution gives the federal government no authorization to spend money on projects like this.

    What is particularly insulting and foolish is trying to make this argument about planetariums and science…when the real issue is taxing and spending on state projects at a time when the federal government currently has the largest defecit in history.

    McCain’s point really has nothing to do with planetariums.

  258. shell

    I was angry at first like most. But then I remembered McCain can’t use the internet how could he possibly see the good in a Highly complex piece of equiptment needed for science. How ever it does not excuss the fact he over looked the educational part of it.

  259. @ t

    > The question to ask is why aren’t the democrats spending some
    > of the more than $250 million they are spending on the
    > presidential race on this stuff.

    As opposed to how much the republicans are spending?

    I imagine the cost/benefit analysis for many of them works something like this: “Spend $250 million to win the White House and have a major say in how the budget is spent” vs “Donate $250 million to 70 different planetariums and watch that other party spend the $2.8 *trillion* federal budget largely on stuff we disagree with.”

    Hm. $250 million, vs $2,800,000 million.

    (whether or not you think money exists like Jason, or you agree with the principles of how the Democrats is largely not relevant to the fact that your comment is a false dichotomy).

  260. *sigh*

    if McCain is honestly against pork, why did he pick Palin? and why have I heard NOTHING from him about the Israel-pork? How about not spending 1 1/2 times the defense budget on failing financial institutions? he seems very selective about this.

    sorry, but he simply picked a convenient target he thought would exemplify best how wasteful and frivolous pork is… that he thought a SCIENCE project was the best example of waste is telling.

  261. Overhead Projector Enthusiast

    Why do some people say Adler is a local attraction? It is in our 3rd largest city. It’s not like just Illinois residents go there. Do you go to the Smithsonian when you’re in DC? Or Hayden Planetarium in NYC?

    Are y’all going to complain about national parks next? Should Yosemite be privatized, owned by a corporation and Disneyfied? Should the states solely pay for things that many others from other states and countries use? While earmarks should be handled better, something Obama agreed with McCain about in the first debate, some of you sound like privatization fanatics. It usually results in higher admission fees thus poorer people go less often.

    The 10th Amendment was to protect the sovereign powers of states. In these cases of earmarks, the govt isn’t telling a state what to do, the state is asking for funds! It’s interesting that people like to whip out Amendments without seeming to understand why they were created. This is not a 10th Amendment issue, especially when you look at SCOTUS rulings on it.

    Truly Conservative said:

    I don’t need a $3 million star gazing projector to spark awe and neither does the government need to pay for my personal pleasure of experiencing that awe. Have we lost site of looking up at the sky at night and viewing the galaxy in its natural state?

    We’ve lost sight of the sky with light pollution. In case you haven’t noticed, the cities are pretty awful, no less nearby suburbs. The majority of people can no longer see much of our galaxy without traveling somewhere rural or far away. A planetarium gives people a sense of what’s out there and what they can’t see thanks to human intervention. Join DarkSky.org and petition for a natural planetarium…if you can think beyond your personal pleasure.

  262. David_the_Astronomer

    Ok. Here are the straight facts. Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy are required to take a course in celestial navigation. My money says McCain flunked it and he’s now simply getting even with the heavens. (That part is opinion.)

    DRB, USNA Class of 1970

  263. Jose

    @AllCaps
    Don’t you think that the fact that the US is falling further behind the rest of the world when it comes to science education is a national security issue? We have the most powerful military in the world because it’s the most technologically advanced. That can’t last forever. The first step in producing more top notch homegrown scientist is inspiring kids to want to be scientists. Things like museums and planetariums are an important part of that, and they only require a tiny fraction of the amount of money we’re now spending on wars and bailouts.

    People seem to be under the impression that a huge portion of our federal budget is devoted to NASA and other scientific endeavors, but it’s just not true. Science is just a convenient political target.

  264. Martin

    All the science aside, given how many people focus on the fact that Mr. McCain has lied in this “planetarium case”, I find it useful to note that Mr. Obama uses the same tactics, at least in campaign he runs in Florida (eg. he states that McCain has killed the immigration reform, while in reality he was one of the main sponsor of that bill – see http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12341739).

    Not living in the United States, I’m don’t follow the presidential campaign very closely, so I can’t compare the dirtiness of the two campaigns myself. However, my opinion based on experience of living in a “post-communist”, East-European country is: politicians do lie – and quite often.

  265. Steven Charles Raine

    As someone who first got into astronomy and learned so much and was so inspired through the Adelaide Planetarium out atMawsonLake sSA I’m going to add my voice those who are outraged, appalled and disgusted by McCain’s anti-astronomy, anti-science, anti-knowledge views.

    Hating planetaria of all things?? Words fail me.

    I nerver liked MCcCain and despised his party tobegin with but this is just staggering.

    How the blazes can any American with even half a brain or even a quarter of a love of science or wonder even think of voting for that fool? :-(

  266. Steven Charles Raine

    David_the_Astronomer said on October 9th, 2008 at 8:44 pm :

    “Ok. Here are the straight facts. Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy are required to take a course in celestial navigation. My money says McCain flunked it and he’s now simply getting even with the heavens. (That part is opinion.)”

    Well that sounds like the only possible reason he could have for disliking them so much to me! You may very well be right there! ;-)

    Mind you “..just getting even …’ is too kind a way of putting such a vindictive, petty, downright dumb attitude.

    Gee, I sure hope Obama wins.

  267. Steven Charles Raine

    The Bad Astronomer, Dr Phil Plait wrote :

    “The comments on my statements have been all over the place, from support to some fairly ridiculous complaints. My favorites have involved something along the line of, “Where in the Constitution does it say the federal government has to send money to planetaria?”

    Good question. But where does it say the government will repair roads, provide clean water, create public schools, fund the space program?

    Look: there are some things the government does for the greater good. This is where libertarians and I part company. Government isn’t always bad. In many cases, it takes the money it gets in taxes and does fantastic things with it, like sending probes to Mercury [& fundingplanetariums - SCR!] and funding autism research. It makes the roads drivable, and makes sure companies don’t pollute our air (well, it used to do that). You can complain all you want that earmarks get abused — and they certainly do — but they also get used to fund projects that are starved for cash, and that richly deserve to have life breathed into them.”

    Well said! Hear! Hear! & Seconded by me.
    (Or no doubt now 500 & fifty-seconded! ;-) )

    That is 100 % correct and I couldn’t have put it any better.

  268. Celtic_Evolution

    @ t

    The fact remains that a planetarium is a LOCAL attraction. It should be paid for with LOCAL money.

    OK… we’ve heard this argument before, straight up libertarianism… not going to debate it further… but THEN you go on to say:

    Does anyone think that it is worth 30 teachers’ salaries for a year to have a new projector in a planetarium?

    So, besides the fact that you present a fallacious false dichotomy, (it’s not an either / or thing… and you used “teachers” to gain emotional, sympathetic support, a low tactic), you confuse me by stating that a local educational facility like a museum shouldn’t be funded by federal funds, but local educational facilities like public schools should be… hmmm… I’m confused… seems like a contradiction to me.

    I can’t even call you a libertarian at this point… at least they’re more consistent.

  269. Glenn Becker

    “The honorable thing for him to do now is to admit he was wrong, admit he mischaracterized both the planetarium and Obama’s stance, and then issue a public apology to planetarians and science-lovers across the country.”

    Ay, there’s the (or a, anyway) rub: unfortunately we are deep in a “no responsibility” gravity well. I’m not sure when we entered it, but my (cough) conservative guess would be around 1980, when our first animatronic president, that hyper-pomaded mummy who has been inexplicably beatified by people who get hard-ons from things like union-busting, I’m talkin’ Ronald Reagan, took office.

    At any rate, I feel like the last time I heard a political figure admit to any kind of mistake was probably some time in the late Silurian.

    Honor is dead, at least in government, and has been replaced by the bottom line.

  270. frogkins

    I stumbled on your conversation here quite by accident, but I have found it fascinating and very informative.
    I am an outsider to your situation both geographically (I live in France, though I am not French) and intellectually (I shall admit right away that I am a Classicist), but I agree entirely with the criticism made of the apparently anti-science and anti-education remarks of Mr. McCain (because even if he did not intend them that way, that is certainly how they came across). for me, it is typical of a deep vein of anti-intellectualism in the United States that was already there in the 19th century, but has evolved now into an alarming discourse which obviously places learning and education at the bottom of some sort of hierarchy of values. this is more blatant on the Republican side, because of the support it gets from the Christian fundamentalists, who attract the most attention (and are important enough, as is said above, for the Republican candidate to have to pander to them), but I have even Democratic friends in the US of A who make disdainful comments to me about ‘French intellectuals’, which is effectively a different facet of the same anti-intellectualism.
    such a wide spectrum of a country (and it is moving that way even here) being so dismissive of education and intellectual achievement almost defies explanation. when asked by people, in America or elsewhere, why on earth I studied something like Ancient Greek, I always reply, because it teaches me to think.
    it seems that too many people have come to the conclusion that being able to think is an irrelevant skill, and that is more than a great pity.
    nevertheless, it is heartening to see in your conversation here so many people who do care about these things! for what it is worth, you have my support!

  271. My-Name-is-Kenneth

    Whether Bush stole the election in 2000 or not, just keep this in mind: HALF the voters in the USA voted for him TWICE.

    If McCain wins, I won’t be completely surprised. Digusted at the overall stupidity of Americans, yes, and fearful for what may happen to the rest of the world, but not completely surprised.

    Hope y’all enjoy moose burgers with your new brown shirts.

  272. TheWalruss

    One of the things I like most about Obama is that he’s straight-up about mistakes. Adding accountability seems to be high-up on his agenda for reform, and he leads by example. My goodness, how refreshing!
    McCain/Palin aren’t really on par, from what I’ve read. Biden, I’m not so sure – but I’m sure Barack can kick him in line.

  273. Todd W.

    Just an added note to all those who are supporting McCain because of his anti-earmark stance.

    1) On the amendment to Senate resolution 70, an earmark moratorium, McCain was a co-sponsor with several other senators, among which was…Sen. Obama. Both McCain and Obama voted yes on a moratorium.
    2) Despite McCain’s cries against earmarks and would, as president, veto any legislation that came across his desk containing earmarks, he voted yes on the recent bailout legislation, even though it contained quite a number of earmarks. I dunno, but, well, it seems kinda hypocritical to me to be so gung-ho about quelling earmarks, but not having the strength of character to follow through and vote no on a bill that contains earmarks.

    Maybe it’s just me.

  274. Freelance Minion

    While I agree this is another example of McCain trying to score political points that falls flat, I have to say I’m another to ask whether he actually understands exactly how complex a modern planetarium projector system is. The guy reportedly doesn’t understand email and my WWII vet grandpa was all over that before he passed away.

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