That Darn Overhead Projector!

By Julianne Dalcanton | October 8, 2008 11:55 am

Regular CV readers already know of John McCain’s past griping about planetariums. Well, apparently that planetarium is really stuck in his craw, because he brought it up again in the most recent debate:

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

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting the AlderAdler Planetarium, you’d probably guess that the “overhead projector” he’s talking about is the spectacular “Sky Theater” — one of the most engrossing, gorgeous venues for displaying visuals about space. University of Chicago professor Andrey Kravstov has a wonderful defense of the theater in a comment on the New York Times website (h/t Deoliver47):

I am an Associate Professor of Astronomy at the University of Chicago (the University that today has added yet another Nobel Prize winner in the sciences for the US). I would like to comment on Sen. McCain’s statement during the today’s debate that Sen. Obama has earmarked “$3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Ill. My friends, do we need to spend that kind of money?”

The way Sen. McCain has phrased it suggests that Sen. Obama approved spending $3 million on an old-fashioned piece of office equipment (overhead projector).
The 3 million is actually for an upgrade of the SkyTheater – a full dome projection system, which is probably the main attraction of the Adler Planetarium and is quite sophisticated and impressive piece of equipment.

I find it appalling that Sen. McCain would call a science education tool for public (largely children) for
a historic planetarium with millions of visitors a year a wasteful earmark. The planetarium’s focus, as stated on their website ( is “on inspiring young people, particularly women and minorities, to pursue careers in science.” Is an investment in such public facility at the time when US
competitiveness in math and sciences is a constant source of alarm a waste?

“American’s ability to compete in a 21st Century economy rests on our continued investments in math and science education,” said Rep. Brian Baird, Chairman of the Research and Science Education Subcommittee in Congress, after the passage of The 21st Century Competitiveness Act of 2007.

Considering such investments “wasteful earmarks” today, even in the face of the financial crisis, will severely cripple US economic competitiveness in the increasingly high-tech world down the road.

Andrey Kravtsov, Chicago, IL

Aside from arguing about the “wastefulness” this particular facility, politically I’m actually surprised that McCain is going after planetariums. People like planetariums. And the AlderAdler Planetarium is a place that millions of people go to — it’s not as if the earmark funded some high-tech facility in an obscure place that would serve only a few thousand people. If he was going to attack earmarks for science, he’d be better off going back to the bear DNA.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and Politics
  • Risa

    Damn it Julianne, you beat me to it! I was about to post the same thing. Adler Planentarium is one of the top planetariums in the world, one of the few that is affilated with a top academic department in Astronomy — several of the PhD research staff at Adler have cross appointments in the Department
    of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. Their exhibits are among the best presentations of science to a public audience that I’ve seen, bringing cutting edge research in astrophysics to a very broad audience, mostly students. The Sky Theater at Adler is phenomenal. Now, there may be a legitimate debate about whether a line item request in the federal budget is the right way to fund such projects. But anyone who values science education should appreciate that this is 3 million dollars *very* well spent. The fact that McCain decided to bring this up to a national audience again gives me serious concerns about his view of science education.

  • Julianne

    Ha! I had even checked our site’s back end to see if there were any relevant saved drafts, suspecting that Joanne might be doing a followup.

  • David Nataf

    John McCain attacked a $3 million study of bears in the first debate.
    Debate #2 he goes after astronomy.
    For Debate #3, I predict he’ll go after oceanography.

  • Sean

    I think he’s afraid of the bears.

  • David Nataf

    why be afraid of bears when you have Sarah Palin with you?

  • Julianne

    Can he go after math? Does math ever get earmarks? People hate math.

  • tacitus

    Can he go after math? Does math ever get earmarks? People hate math.

    I vote that we cut all earmarks and discretionary spending involving the numbers 4 and 7. That should reduce our national debt by 50% at least!

  • Jim Harrison

    What was cynical about McCain’s remark is that he was counting on the ignorance of his listeners. For all I know somebody could make a case that Federal money should not have gone to the Adler Planetarium in this instance, but that was never McCain’s point.

    More generally, the McCain obsession (or strategic emphasis) on earmarks has two fundamental problems:

    1. It is a red herring. Earmarks are not a major part of the Federal budget and are utterly dwarfed by such budget busters as McCain’s beloved tax cuts for the hyper rich–we’re talking something like 18 billion vs 300 billion.

    2. The fact that some earmarks are abusive doesn’t mean that all of them are. I don’t know what proportion of earmarks fall in the Bridge to Nowhere category and which are in the Adler Planetarium category. I expect that a good bit of the 18 billion goes to perfectly reasonable projects.

  • James D. Miller

    But why should the Federal government rather than local governments pay the cost?

    Rias wrote “But anyone who values science education should appreciate that this is 3 million dollars *very* well spent.” This is only true if the projector could not have been bought for less than $3 million. The fact that the Federal Government paid for the projector probably means that no one took much care to get the best possible price for it.

  • MattV

    You have “Adler” misspelled twice. Like a politician who misremembers the name of a military commander, it kind of undermines your credibility on the argument when you get the basic details wrong.

    /End nitpick. Love the blog.

    (JD: Whoops! That’s what I get for high-speed posting…)

  • stand

    Grrrr! This nonsense from McCain infuriates me! I worked at the Adler (as a volunteer) during the period when the new projector went in. It was a fabulous upgrade and it was well received by the city. I daresay it has paid for itself by now though I don’t know for sure.

    If you’re in or near Chicago, go to the planetarium! It’s a great resource. The good people at the Adler don’t deserve this kind of negative publicity.

  • tacitus

    The problem with this type of thread (BadAstronomy just had one) is that once a Ron Paul fan shows up (or perhaps a saner libertarian), it always degenerates into a “federal government has no business funding…” argument. And having an argument with a Ron Paul fan over a specific earmark is kind of like arguing whether it was an asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs with a young-Earth creationist. In other words, pointless.

  • rob

    you can have my planetarium when you pry it from my cold dead hands.

  • Jim

    To address a few of these comments…

    1) The money was never actually allocated! There is no new projector. The projector referred to by “stand” was for a different theatre at the planetarium, not the main dome.

    2) Check out the actual prices for projector *systems* of this sort. They are extremely expansive. Also the actual request was for funding for *part* of the entire theatre and certain associated exhibits and programs.

    3) The Adler is a national jewel with many of its visitors coming from other states, some even from other countries. While one can argue about whether earmarks ought to be used for funding these projects, it is not an unreasonable point of view that there is a national interest here.

  • Hawke

    From Wikipedia: “with an earmark, Congress has given itself the ability to direct a specified amount of money from an agency’s budget to be spent on a particular project, without Members of Congress having to identify themselves or the project.”

    Anyone not see why this is a Bad Idea, regardless of the the Goodness of the particular spend?

  • Amanda

    Warning! Planetaria can be hazardous for your health. I visited Adler Planetarium innumerable times as a child and now I’ve got a Ph.D. in astronomy. *oh no* Don’t let this happen to your child!

  • Z

    Amanda, with the state of science in this country, job prospects, and health care coverage, you could indeed argue that having a PhD in astronomy is hazardous to one’s health.

  • Tod R. Lauer

    As much as I appreciate the good work of the Adler, and as much as I am disgusted with the presumption of frivolity by McCain, I do have trouble with the idea of earmarks. There are other examples of this in astronomy and those who push from them do so without regard to priorities, strategy, wishes, etc. of the more considered reviews and processes set up by the community. I don’t know what other options the Adler had for development, but I wish another avenue had been taken…

  • Pingback: Quite the Overhead Projector « The Martian Chronicles()

  • Elliot Tarabour

    I don’t particularly like earmarks due to the anonymity but these are not incremental expenditures. The money has already been approved.

    I also consider the Iraq War to effectively be a 600 billion dollar earmark for the Saudi Royal family and Mercenary contractors friends of Cheney.


  • B

    Yes, really outrageous. I love overhead projectors. Everybody loves overhead projectors. Bad man.

  • Haelfix

    I love the Adler planetarium, however it should have been a state funded thing and not the business of the federal government.

    Earmarks are essentially methods of bribery in order to get votes for a bill. So for instance the bailout bill only passes the house when theres some extra pork in order to appease various congressmen to change their minds.

    Unnacceptable! The president should have a line item veto.

  • Elliot Tarabour


    Here in Illinois the governor has line item veto authority. It has led to a complete abuse of power. Blago appears to be one of the most corrupt public officials in recent memory and I say that as a life long democrat.


  • Ellipsis

    Tod — would you be willing to walk next door and ask the Steward Observatory to return the $984k you folks got from an earmark just last year?

  • Tod R. Lauer

    As I said, I don’t think it’s appropriate for any astronomical institution to get earmarks.

  • Andrey

    There is a good piece about McCain’s planetarium’s attack at Huffington’s post:

    It touches upon all the important, deeper issues of the anti-science message that was pitched by the McCain’s campaign lately.

  • Andrey

    As to the earmarks, Adler is not really an astronomy research institution, but a public facility like a museum. Given the number of visitors from across the United States to the Adler, it can clearly be considered a national facility. I do agree that it would be better if this was funded by a private donor or a local government. However, I don’t see what’s wrong with federal government helping with a partial funding of such facility. China does not think so – they have funded such projection system for the Beijing planetarium (while the Adler earmark it should be noted was not funded in the end, so Adler is still with the 40 yr old system it had before):

    If any local shortfall is business of the local government, then bailout of the Wall Street banks should also be the task of Mayor Bloomberg and people of NYC. 😉

  • anonymous37

    Wow, nobody has commented on this angle, which makes McCain’s comment particularly hypocritical.

  • Pingback: State of the Race: has Obama Peaked? Sarah Palin a Cancer for the GOP? « blueollie()

  • Tom Moore

    I just checked the planetarium website and ticket prices range from $10 to $23. With “millions” of visitors per year you do the math and see if they should pay for it themselves, whatever kind of overhead it is. IT’S A BUSINESS!!!

  • Ben

    Forget the morality of earmarks for a moment. It is part of the way our system runs currently. It would be nice to have a different system in which everything was peer-reviewed and as big a pain in the neck as an NSF grant proposal, but that is not going to happen soon.

    The issue for me with this comment is the belittling of planetariums as circus amusements, “overhead projectors,” and yes the bear DNA study was also totally misrepresented. One expects some amount of shorthand or shaving of the truth in a political campaign, but here McCain is simply running on an anti-intellectual tactic. It can be a good tactic sometimes because eggheads are hard to defend, although right now, I think the economy’s problems are drowning it out. But in general, encouraging anti-intellectual tactics is not a good long run bet, for people who like to read science blogs. That includes all the principled libertarians who read Cosmic Variance but want the Adler to buy its own projector. You’re eggheads too, by McCain/Palin standards.

  • Lab Lemming

    “Forget the morality of earmarks for a moment. It is part of the way our system runs currently.”

    The whole point of the McCain campaign is to change the way the system runs.

  • Phil Plait

    It’s amazing. I posted on this as well, and the comments are… remarkable.

  • Lab Lemming

    I still don’t see why they can’t just make everyone turn off the lights for half an hour and use a 25 buck laser pointer to highlight things.

    The sky is free. If you can’t see it, constructing yet another building and buying millions of dollars of equipment to pretend just ignores the larger issue.

  • Joe

    I love planetariums and bears, but sorry, there is no need for this to be nationally funded—and I am not a Ron Paul supporter. The funds for this could have been obtained via an increase in admission fees with partial support from the local government. There is absolutely NO reason someone in Hawaii should pay any part of this. Period.

    So please everyone, do not conflate dislike of John McCain with dislike of earmarks.

  • Doug

    Lab: it’s fine for McCain to argue that the earmark system is in need of reform, and many here would likely concur.

    However, these attacks on specific earmarks are disingenuous, as he simultaneously implies that $3 million dollars for the Adler planetarium is wasteful simply because it is related to science and that those budget dollars (had they actually been allocated) would make any difference whatsoever to the current federal budget deficit.

    If McCain wants to argue against specific earmarks, a throw-away line in a national debate is hardly the appropriate time, and prevents the institution under attack from defending itself.

  • Ben

    The whole point of the McCain campaign is to change the way the system runs.

    If so, would it not be better to make this point honestly, without implying that a planetarium is a big wasteful overhead projector toy?

    Seriously, don’t think that representing science as a goofy luxury of eggheads is something that can be turned on during the campaign and turned off once the campaign is over.

  • Speedy Gonzalez

    Maybe it’s time to end the discussion on the “problematic” Adler planetarium earmarks, since it did not happen according to a STATEMENT ABOUT SENATOR JOHN McCAIN’S COMMENTS AT THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE from Adler planetarium:

    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.

    Let’s focus on the real dangerous problem, Senator John McCain.

  • Dave

    You do not get it. Obama earmarked a project BECAUSE the head guy at the planetarium said he would raise 2 million for Obama’s campaign. That is the conflict of interest, lying and nonsense we have come to expect from Obama.

  • Count Iblis


    I still don’t see why they can’t just make everyone turn off the lights for half an hour and use a 25 buck laser pointer to highlight things.

    The sky is free. If you can’t see it, constructing yet another building and buying millions of dollars of equipment to pretend just ignores the larger issue.

    In a planetarium they show you much more than you can see with the naked eye or with quite large amateur telescopes. The whole point about planetariums is to show to people what the objects they can see in the night sky really are.

    The people who would visit observatoria where they let you look through telescopes, are already interested in astronomy anyway. Also, you cannot accomodate a large number of people there. They only have a few telescopes available and people have to take turns.

    As for naked eye viewing, I don’t think people would want to pay $30 for being told that a particular fuzzy dot in the sky they can barely see is the Andromeda Galaxy, especially not if they don’t know what galaxies are.

    Instead, it is far more interesting to go to a planetarium where they can let them see the same fuzzy dot in the sky, which is then magnified allowing them to see what it really is.

  • Speedy Gonzalez

    Dave, hope you get it:

    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.

  • cookingwithsolvents

    “There is absolutely NO reason someone in Hawaii should pay any part of this. Period.”

    B.S. It is precisely the fact that we HAVE a national government capable of marshaling and reallocating greater funds and influence that contributes to the fact that the United STATES of America is a prosperous nation and not just a bunch of some poor, some rich countries called Hawaii, New York, etc.

    The emergence of the European Union as a global economic superpower power is not a coincidence, it is (however oversimplified a model) a “United States of Europe”

    California Population (2006 estimate): 36,457,549
    New York Population(2006 estimate): 19,306,183
    Hawaii Population (2006 estimate): 1,285,498
    Switzerland Population (2007 estimate): 7,554,661
    Germany Population (2007 estimate): 82,400,996

  • Speedy Gonzalez

    cookingwithsolvents, thanks for thinking of the European Union as a global economic superpower. It makes me a little bit proud, even though you have nothing to “fear” at the moment – we are on the edge of bankruptcy right now! :)

    What you should really “watch out” for though is China, 1,326,550,000 extremely hardworking people who in 10 years gone from “Middle Ages” living, to mobile Internet speed.

    And then you have India, 1,139,030,000 people competing with China…

    So, if you think that there is a physical law saying – The United States of America are forever going to be the greatest country in the world – then I think you are in some serious trouble…

  • Pingback: John McCain’s Planetarium Problem()

  • changcho

    I am completely in favor of projectors…

  • Joan

    If you think it is so important then buy your own projector!…or better yet let the Obama’s buy you one from his book sales or maybe his friend the domestic terrorist Bill Ayers could help you out……America’s tax dollars could be better spent on other projects….again Obama’spoor judgement is showing…..NOBAMA!…NO WAY!!!!!!!!

  • Dick

    Spend 4 million so to persuade people to believe the lie of evolution. Americans want to believe evolution,global warming, and there is not God that has a lake of fire for them to burn in eternity in. Whether you believe in hell or not doesn’t matter as to whether you end up there.

  • Cheap

    Crazy spending.. You want to see stars ….

    This is a good example of excess spending no matter who the heck you thing you are or WHAT YOU THINK YOU MAY NEED OR OTHERS NEED! To use children as the crutch of the whole matter is sick and totally irresponsible.

    Someone made a lot of money, get real…

    Let me ask one question: Is the admission FREE for children of all ages… NO!

  • Physicist

    I am fairly shocked at McCain’s comment about the 3M in funding about a projector. Science is imagination, and without imagination, there is nothing. 3M when we spend billions of dollars to go to war (this is not to say I question our leader’s decisions about war in this comment), but to compare 700 billion in funding to 3M is absurd. Jean Paul Sartre, would have issues with this in his works Imagination and Being and Nothingness as well. To fund wars and banks over science and the arts is absurd, especiallu when the wars are being fought overseas and not in self-defense and the banks caused the issues we are facing with the economy today. 700 billion to 3M is absurd. Please, that is the most appalling comment I have ever heard.



  • Summers

    Several politicians from both sides supported the earmark for the Adler Planetarium – it wasn’t an Obama initiative by himself. Some of the other earmarks Obama has put his name on include upgrading the equipment at Chicago Children’s Hospital and investing in mobile health clinics which could help provide health care to rural Illinois residents who did not live near hospitals (less anyone think he is only interested in Chicago projects).

    A lot of earmarks go to hospitals and infrastructure upgrades. A very small percentage goes to cultural endeavors. Even if you only picked the non-essential cultural items or education projects (which some people consider very much worth the money) and threw them out, you’d basically throw a deck chair off the Titanic compared to the $500,000,000 deficit we’re running. It’d be meaningless.

    The bear DNA project (which Republicans wanted – it helped get the grizzly off the endangered species list to open up more of Montana for logging and oil drilling) was less than the cost of one day’s breakfast for our troops in Iraq, that war which McCain said in 2002 would be easy and we could win with less than 100,000 troops.

  • Summers

    The Adler Planetarium is non-profit. That’s a straw man argument.

    Walk outside and look at the stars. My God. What do Republicans have against intelligence and education? I swear most of these people would be happier in the Dark Ages before all that pesky Enlightenment and book learnin’. Some of us would like to evolve and grow as a species, thank you very much.

  • Phil

    Great post up top…McCain is just showing us he is too old and out of touch, and the fact is he couldn’t post a comment on here if his life (or this election) depended on it.
    What really cracks me up are people like “The Dick” and “Joan,” who come onto a clearly science related website and post nonsense. The great thing about evolution and the like, is that these ignorant people will eventually be selected against, because it is the strong who survive (thanks natural selection). And they don’t even have to believe in it. The unfortunate thing is you can’t really use logical thinking when dealing with such ignorance and closed-mindedness.
    In reality, Bush has shut down all of science, technology, and math in our country. We are falling behind on the global scale, and as a medical student I am disgusted to know how we have all been held hostage by the Right-wing, Bush, McCain, and all their cronies.
    I thank God we have a chance for real change in this election, someone who will help fund and thus restore American Science to its full glory.
    And to “the-dick/joan type,” go ahead and start getting over yourselves….this is an uprising…like it or love it….we’ve had enough of your ignorant ways…stay home and keep it to yourself…you make all of us True Americans look bad….educate yourselves…think…then listen…then think again….then speak….do Not just simply speak!
    PS: Check the polls…there is no wonder (among the educated) as to why the states just keep turning Blue….



  • Ron Smith

    Who CARES????????????????????????????

  • Stephanie

    This should have been a state project. McCain is RIGHT. With the economy the way it is and spending out of control, these types of items are not as important! If we are attacked again, how will this projector help? When so many people are losing their houses, how will it help? When our kids are hungry, how will it help? Simple! It will not! People all over the world are watching their homes be repoed, cars repoed, and their retirement flushed down the drain and you scientists and morons are worried about a projector. Thought u were the smart ones?????

  • BPW

    I agree that Planetariums are popular learning instruments and that such facilities should explore all funding options to update the mechanisms which make a facility what it is but I also agree with signaling to all entities, science related or not, that sliding such funding into unrelated congressional bills will not and should not be an accepted method of obtaining money for local projects. Frankly, such an amount for a specific community should come from those that would benefit the most by it, the local government or local private donations. I don’t fault the asking, its the appropriation that I take issue with.

  • BPW

    Hey Phil, you sound headed for some anger management classes. Take a breath and get over what has happened with unfunding science by the Bush Administration. You really should look to your local community for such funding. With all the problems that the federal government has been dealing and will continue to deal with for years, I think science funding is way down the list of priorities.

  • Ruth

    To think that John McCain would mislead the facts is the crux of the problem with our government leadership today. They mislead us on Iraq. They mislead us on Afghanistan, and they mislead us on the economy. This is puts in plain view the narrow minded, greedy, lack of vision that we have come to expect from the Republican candidates (which John McCain is obviously one even though he refuses to admit it).

    If $3 million for a science building in Illinois is too much (which never happened, I repeat never happened) then why is $600 million for a bridge to Wasilla ok? Then on top of it to have the gall to position yourself as against pork spending? There is a road to Wasilla. This is merely a bridge to allow for more developement so special interest people can make money off the development. I will never go to Wasilla and never use that bridge. Why should I and the rest of America pay? My retirement is in the tank by an economy that my president says as short as a few months ago has strong fundamentals. I am tired of the lies and deceit.

  • Lex I’d call Barney Frank if you don’t like the current economic climate

  • Lex

    All subcommittees “led” by Liberal DEMOCRATS – uhhhh there’s your problem.

  • Lex

    I bet “Your President” was lied to by people like Barney Frank. He still has a job because????

  • Lex

    I know… The TRUTH hurts – no need to comment.


    Although there are many things I do not agree with… and although I do very much like to go sit beneath the stars in a planetarium…..

    I AM SORRY, I do not think that I should have to pay for a planetarium in Chicago to get a new projector. I Believe that should be paid for by the people who have the opportunity to use that piece of equipment. Charge a $5/person fee to go into the dome… HECK, if I was there I would pay a fee for my own use of the projector.

    I am sorry, I am just one of those people who think people should pay for what they get to use, not for things that they will never see. I do not want my federal gov’t taxing me to re-paint the golden-gate bridge either. People in Cal. Can pay for that. I “believe” that the gov’t (FEDS) should tax it’s citizens for the items that they can use… I

    I also do not feel it is in any way fair that MY FAIR SHARE ( as a late 40’s guy) who worked his way through the military, Paid for his own college then went to the outside for a pay raise get to leave the gov’t with $10,000 every year, while there are lazy slobs sitting at home on welfare not paying a dime in and then getting a refund at the end of the year due to their Child credits and the such.

    Here’s a new one for you… IF THE GOV’T PAYS for you to survive… YOU get no refund at the end of the year. I have yet to figure out how My family gets more from the gov’t (use of roads and such) than someone who is on aid. However, they get money back, and most people in my situation do not see near the check that the people on AID get.

    PAY their fair share is the democratic motto for upping tmy taxes…. I AM GAME…. everyone pays their “FAIR SHARE”…. If you put nothing in the tax coffers, no tax credit is refundable.

    IF you get USE of the Planetarium, It is YOUR FAIR SHARE to pay for it. I do not have a problem with the gov’t loaning the money to the planetarium so that they can expedite the upgrade…. then the planetarium could pay it back later, but GRANTING them a free projector?.

    SURE IF you get to use it- YOU love the idea…. IF you only get to pay for it…. YOU might be ambivolent about it.

    OH, and I take exception to the ignorant statement that scientists are all upset about this… I am sure some of them are… but I am sure some of them know we must spend these bucks where they do the most good- and cancer research would be a better GRANT in my world. OH and BEAR DNA is asinine also!

    Have a great day…. Brought to you by the grace of god (and the Dr. that did not abort you), and secured for you by todays American military.

  • Lex

    “Ruth” Are you getting this? I made reference to some rather important “leaders” in the House Finance Committee.

  • Lex

    Amen Chuck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Gammie Mame

    You people are all very scary! No institution of ANY kind should spend 3mil on ANYTHING when we have starving children right here in our own nation INCLUDING the City of Chicago…please get back to reality!

  • Jeri

    Just an ordinary previous Chicago resident here….the Planatarium is the most exciting, beautiful, and educational experience available in any city anywhere. I have told numerous people planning to visit Chicago not to miss this show no matter what their previous agenda. Ages 2-100 are enthralled. Everyone plans to see the museums and art institute, but these don’t compare to the experience at the planatarium theater. My grandchildren at the time ages 2 through 12 were nearly speachless after experiencing this spectacular show.

    I thank Senator Obama for supporting the Adler Planatarium. Money well spent.

  • Ruth

    Lets not avoid the subject. If John McCain wants our votes, we should demand that he stop all unneccessary spending and use the bridge to Wasilla as a meaningful action. I could then believe him. Until then he is not different than all the others and he needs to stop saying he is different because he isn’t.

    Regarding the banking fiasco lets try to use history and some of the facts to see what got us here. A large part of reason that these banking issues occurred were from a Republican bill which deregulated the banking industry in 1999 and repealed the Glass Steagull Act. It removed almost all regulation from the major banking industry. The Republican bill set in motion the deregulation that let the major banks run free and take the unneccessary and greedy risks that led us down this path.

    Barney Frank and only 4 other Republicans voted were among those against the bill. John McCain missed the rollcall and never voted at all. Biden voted yes to repeal it. Obama who was not a senator was quoted as being against deregulation.

  • Waldemar Puszkarz

    He is in trouble. That’s about the only thing I remember from what he said during the debate because it struck me as petty, at best, and if that’s the impression he gave others with his unfortunate, to say the least, remark, he is in trouble… And I hope he is. His maverick image suffered a lot too. Imagine him saying instead that the best earmark Obama had ever requested was for that projector. Now, that would be mavericky indeed…

  • Harold

    I saw this post on a recent Yahoo news article!

  • Ruth

    John McCain is deceitful and petty. He purposely tried to mislead the public over a request for funding over a public facility that is used by millions not just from Chicago. It never got funded anyway so it should be a non issue but to bring it up as an issue in the debate is a direct attempt to deceive. I am tired of the lies and deceit.

    Why should we fund National Parks? Why should we fund anything in Washington DC? Why do fund the Smithonian? It is only a bunch of old stuff. We fund those things because we need to have pride in our nation and offer resources that all people can enjoy and learn from. The Adler is a wonderful educational experience that can be enjoyed by all.

    If he wants to make a point about being against pork, he needs to speak out about the bridge to Wasilla. For John McCain to bring this up as a debate issue is hypocritical, and deceitful. You can’t fool all the the people all of the time.

  • Ruth

    Lex are your reading this? Do you know anything about our government or history? Have your ever been to a national or state park? Have you ever been to the Smithsonian? Did you know about the bridge to Wasilla? (The (R) Don Young bridge it is called and costs you and I $600 million. Did you know the Fed Government owns 99% of Alaskas land? If you didn’t know, we bought it from Russia and created the state of Alaska. Sarah Palin didn’t buy that land. WE bought it. US taxpayers. Have you ever hunted or fished on government land?

    I thought not……

  • Richard

    The overhead projector might be a solid investment for the city of Chicago. Unfortunately, my tax dollars help pay for this as well. Since I will never have the luxury of enjoying it, why should I help pay for it?

  • Steve

    So I assume the Adler is now closed because they did not get their new projector.

    Oh, it’s not closed? Hmmm…

    Well I guess they are doing just fine with the equipment they have then…

    I think they should try running like most small businesses in the US (including mine). Write a business plan, take out loans personally backed by the board members. Then they can depreciate it over 7 years, then when the cash starts coming in they can pay 35% on all of their profits over and above the depreciation amount for that year.

    If it still works and you don’t replace it after 7 years then all of the income will be taxed at 35%. This way the goverment will profit off the whole operation just like any other business making a profit instead of it taking tax payers money.

    Oh yes, I know that there will be other expenses such as salaries, parties, receptions, and salaies of the board that will eat up any and all profit that the facility will make but at least they would not be asking for the 3M in the first place…

  • NED


    This type of spending when barried as pork in other legislation is not good. Remember it’s the people money so the people should decide. If it it is worthy and a good cause then put it up as a ballot inititive.

    Our spending has put us in a severe debt, so each dollar that gets ear marked cost must more because we have borrow to get it. For some period in our future we must stop spending more than we have. We should operate at a surplus and pay down the debt. Durring this time any extra expenditure must be brought to the people with total cost including interest.

    Sure it’s a great science show place, so get private funding and return the investment to the private investors. One gentlement comments below leads us to see that the planitarium raises more tham 10 million year. If so they should pay the government-“you and me” back for their-“our” generous investment.

    Beside this single example it important to see that this is just one of thousands of pork berral items that gets tacked onto otherwise good legislation. It realy does need to stop.

    Bottom line do we want to live in Capotlistic Society or a Socialist one. Socialism pays for “everything” and the people lose intrest in inovation because they have no personal insentives. This is where science and education is damaged the most. Look at the examples all over the world, especialy before the Solcialist where forced to adopt some capitolist ideas. 1950 thru 1985..

  • Steve

    Hmmm, either Obama’s Web Blog Central operatives have descended on this site, or the scientific community was in the Obama camp anyway. On a whim, I will try to sway. If you were likely to vote for McCain because of reasoned assessment of his plans and character, how on earth…errrr. in the universe, could his citing an example of earmarking projector sway you change your vote? This is not logical. You would forsake your country for a telescope? If you respond that it is not the telescope but what his attack on it represents, then consider the following. He was not attacking federal funding for the telescope, but THE MANNER IN WHICH THE FUNDING IS ACQUIRED. Earmarks essentially hide funding for projects in other, often essential funding bills. I agree that projects that inspire are important, so openly request and acquire the funding. WHY ARE YOU DEFENDING BUSINESS AS USUAL IN DEFENSE OF AN “AGENT OF CHANGE”?

    WAIT A MINUTE!!!! Minutes later, McCain openly declared that federal funding for research in our universities as part of the effort to rapidly develop alternative energy. ISN’T this an endorsement of the scientific community? I’m not a scientist (although I am completely in awe of what you folks do), so let me plain speak; What the #$%#$@^???? PLEASE DON’T TELL ME THIS IS THE BEST LOGIC FROM USA SCIENCE. IF SO, CHINA AND INDIA WILL CLEAN OUR CLOCKS.

  • Tony

    From the Adler Planetarium Web Site-

    One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure
    One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure is an original planetarium show based on the popular children’s show Sesame Street. Big Bird, Elmo and their friend from China, Hu Hu Zhu, take viewers on a journey of discovery to learn about the Big Dipper, the North Star, the Sun and the Moon.
    Opens October 17, 2008!

    Wonder how many top PHD scientists will attend

  • Jim Spencer

    I am offended by the people making these comments about the taxpayer money spent on this project. This facility should buy all of the equipment it needs from tickets purchased at the door or by extra fees charged to students at the University. For some reason, people believe that the federal government should fund these kinds of projects with taxpayer funds taken from people all over the country, when it only benefits locals and students. I am a scientist and have spent federal money on defense and NASA projects. Those can be DIRECTLY related to national security. A planetarium in Illinois cannot claim to need these funds for national security. Someone made a comment that China funds these projects so why can’t we? Simple answer. China is a COMMUNIST country. We are not, at least not yet. Is that what you want?

    The correct and constitutional role of the federal government is to provide a national defense and do a few other things not directly given to the state governmnents. The role of the federal government is NOT to fund these projects. Stop feeding at the government trough and fund your projects with money that is not stolen from others!

  • Speedy Gonzalez

    Senator John McCain is a fraud. I feel sorry for you all guys how believe in this 72-year-old monster figure, as he characterizes himself: “I’m older than dirt — more scars than Frankenstein”

    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.

  • theo

    “Big Bird’s Adventure [at the Adler Planetarium] is an original planetarium show based on the popular children’s show Sesame Street.”

    Someone named Tony grunts, “Wonder how many top PHD scientists will attend”

    He’s right. Children don’t need to learn about astronomy, or anything else really. We need to make them earn their keep working in factories–er, credit card telemarketing centers–er, cleaning up all the foreclosed houses.

    Man, the conservatives here via Yahoo are staggeringly dumb.

  • jlo8910

    It is appalling that Sen. John Mc Cain placing tools of education as second only to military spending in his order of priority. The youth of any country IS the future of any nation. I hope that Sen. Mc Cain be careful in what he states in his talks and interviews because this will greatly harm his run for the presidency.

  • theo

    Earmarks — good and bad — amount to $25 out of my pocket every year. Defense spending is $1000. Defense waste alone is probably $250. The Iraq war is $500. Medicare is $1000.

    The planetarium projector would have cost me a penny, which I’m happy to throw away on the off chance I end up in Chicago looking for something fun to do.

    Maybe we should worry about the big ticket items instead?

    Would anyone here who’s actually run a business spend half their time trying to save money on office supplies? Yet we have a guy, McCain, who wants to be President, spending half the time talking about paperclips.

    The whole earmark issue is a fraud. If people had any sense of proportion, like you would get from, say, good science education, they’d realize they were being deceived.

  • ted

    “Earmarks — good and bad — amount to $25 out of my pocket every year. ”


  • joan

    The way I see it..there are alot more issues ;homeless,disabled..dam building, road fixing..etc….that needs more attention than an observatory in the next few years. Millions of $ dollars should be spent on going ‘green’ and worrying on what is going on.. onTURF! Limit the hours, cut back on staff. I’m sick of seeing taxpayers having to pay for something, when it looks like it could pay for it’s impovements itself. All of us homeowers have to pay for our ‘upgrades’..and then get taxed on it besides! I think that the ceo of Fanny Mae should upgrade that observatory, and the ceo of Freddy Mac should upgrade another scientific study. Do you know how many millions they got in severance pay??? And you grip about one polital comment…

  • Mari Womack, Ph.D.

    Evidently Senator McCain has not read the Bible, since he was unaware that the three magi (wise men) who followed a particularly bright star to Bethlehem were astronomers. I would recommend that Mr. McCain read Matthew, Chapter 2, Verses 1 and 2. If astronomy were good enough for Christ, it should be good enough for the American Christian public, unless they consider themselves to be above Christ.

    I confess to being a scientist, but I am in good company.

  • Wendy

    I am sorry that John McCain singled out the Adler Planetarium as one of the earmarks Barack Obama has supported. I think there were PLENTY of other examples that would have been far more effective.
    I do however believe when our budgets are tight, which they have been for years, this is NOT a luxury that can be afforded by the Federal government. I understand that it was not funded, and I am happy to hear this as a taxpayer.

    I am an avid gardener and my analogy that would apply to this situation is as follows:

    When I don’t have the money to pay for the necessities that are required for my household, I do not spend money on flowers for my garden. If my friends want to give them to me as gifts, I will happily accept them.

    Have your “friends of the planetarium” give you gifts to support this.

    Very sincerely,

    Wendy Wendorf

  • Speedy Gonzalez

    …and I also feel sorry for you guys who is going to vote on this 72-year-old Frankenstein figure…

    Ever thought about what you are voting on, huh? What are Senator John McCain characteristics?

    * Well, we now can see that his is a liar.

    * What about his health? Well, he had skin cancer 4 times (Stage 2A melanoma) between 1993 and 2002. “We know that there is a 40% risk of melanoma coming back with metastases even though the primary lesion is taken out” says Dr. Antoni Ribas. He is unable to raise either arm more than 80 degrees. Depending on the weather, his right knee aches, causing a visible limp. This guy isn’t able to take the President’s oath in proper manner, if worst things happen!

    * What about his mental health? Well, doctors determined that he had an “overdeveloped superego” and an “unrealistically high” need for achievement, two characteristics that could be useful – if you are young. For a 72-year-old is the fastest way to heart attack!

    * What about his mental capabilities? Well, in the latest debate he couldn’t hold 3 topics (words) in his head for prioritizing the next minute, but had to write them down. He keeps on rambling – I can do it! – We can do it! – I’ve done it before! – but that is the most substantial he ever says (remember “overdeveloped superego” and “unrealistically high”).

    * What about foreign experience? Well, either is his mental capabilities playing him a trick, or his physical disabilities = poor hearing, or the man is a complete nutcase. He doesn’t know that Spain is a country in Europe, and that José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero is the Prime Minister of Spain. He thinks this is all Latin-American stuff!? Listen to this!

    That’s what you’re going to get. Think again, reconsider!

  • Lawrence B. Crowell

    Wendy on Oct 9th, 2008 at 7:07 pm :
    I am sorry that John McCain singled out the Adler Planetarium as one of the earmarks Barack Obama has supported

    To be honest I am delighted. This is making the news and it is casting McCain in the light of being an anti-educational troglodyte. McCain’s campaign has gone completely negative. When it comes to issues he is out of gas. Of course the problem is the reason why McCain is out of gas is that the whole country might be out of gas as well.

    Thank God for planetariums. Not only do they give us a clear view of the night sky during all hours, they can give us a clear view of a Presidential candidate as well.

    Lawrence B. Crowell

  • Ruth

    The bridge to Wasilla is pork of the worst kind. It is not even a luxury, (as you put it) but a straightforward effort to profit a very few wealthy politicians families and the governor of Alaska. It is fraud. It opens up parcels of land for development that are held by the family of the Republican Senator who wrote the bill and the governor of Alaska edorses it. And it only costs you and I $600 million dollars. Where is the maverick on that one.

    What the problem is here is the motivation that would make John McCain point out a good faith non profit educational facility used by families and PHD’s alike to upgrade its facility and not mention the other massive pork issues. Maybe its not appropriate at this time to fund a planetarium. But his comments are a blatant attempt to distort the truth and deceive the public to win an election and is contemptable. More of the same from John McCain.

    Oh by the way, the largest pork bill passed by congress and signed by the president in 2008? $34,500,000 for Alaska Native educational equity assistance program”. The Sponsor? Sen. Stevens (Republican-Alaska)

  • Pingback: Populär Astronomi - » Alla talar om planetarier (tack vare John McCain)()

  • maninalift

    This story has now hit Digg via gizmodo

  • david dickinson

    These aren’t your basic powerpoint projectors; planetarium models are state of the art. It’s sad to see that science and research are always the first to be attacked in an election year. With our new space initiative should come a new science education initiative, as during the sixties. Otherwise, we’ll simply loose our competitive edge.

  • Pingback: » McCain versus the Planetarium.()

  • Lawrence B. Crowell

    The projector at Adler has become aged and there are no replacement parts. Planetariums are ways of creating an artificial night sky where people can see the night sky as they have not before.

    A few weeks ago while walking outside in the evening I happened to here some strangers talk about planets. They were arguing about the ordering of the planets. I then pointed to where Venus and Jupiter are. They were somewhat amazed that they were actually seeing the planets!

    By almost all indices the United States is falling behind the rest of the world. This country is behind many countries from heathcare to internet speeds to transportation infrastructure. Some of the nations we lag behind on some of these fronts are nations such as Cyprus or Cuba. We are not just losing a competative edge, we are losing the ability to even play the game of world civilization. In fact the only arena where the US has a clear monopolistic lead is with shear miliary power.

    Lawrence B. Crowell

  • Blake

    Who ever supports McCain on this debate is utter fool.
    Science above all

  • Speedy Gonzalez

    Lawrence B. Crowell,
    John McCain = anti-educational troglodyte 😀 LOL 😀

    The No. 1 comment in post, more thanks! 😀

    John McCain is not only a troglodyte, he is also Older Than Frankenstein!? Well, Frankenstein was born 1818 so John McCain must be over 190!? That’s real dirt!

  • Pingback: Tweede debat tussen Barack Obama en John McCain()

  • Pingback: Scientists Support Obama - The Liberty Lounge Political Forums()

  • Pingback: McCain versus the Universe « The Musings of Chris Samuel()

  • Pingback: McCain's Projector Comment and Scientific Earmarks [Pure Pedantry]()

  • Dave

    Mari Womack, Ph.D –

    You may be a scientist but you are also a troll with the whole “above Chirst” stuff. I also find you to be incredibly disingenuous.

    One – The three wise men were astronomers? First we’ll assume Christianity is more than just myth but actual truth. If we accept as a fact that the three wise men followed a star it makes them as much an astronomer as every astrologer out there, and you know that is a bit of a stretch.

    Second – A planetarium has as much to do with teaching astronomy as a television special on “A Brief History of Time”. Although at least that program is more than just pretty pictures.

    Third – Chicago has 2.8 million residents as of 2005 (US Census approximation). Why couldn’t they manage to raise the money instead of asking for it from the federal government. Oh they could, but its hard to get elected when your setting aside 3 million from a city budget for a planetarium.

  • Pingback: At last, the last debate! « The Liquid Thinker()

  • Shyam Gouri Suresh

    The economic rationale for using federal dollars rather than paying for the projector privately: positive externalities that will be realized in the future due to the development of an interest in science (particularly among children).

    In other words, I am all for private funding when the benefits accrued are private. However, public funding is ok, when the benefits are society-wide.

    Children who visit the Adler planetarium and are inspired to become scientists will not neccessarily live in Chicago once they grow up – more importantly the jobs that these children will create as scientists and the research they will do will help the country at large, not just the children themselves, or residents of Chicago.

    The exact cost benefit calculations after considering externalities are far from trivial. However the stock libertarian response demonstrates an insufficient understanding of the economic principles involved.

  • Pingback: The Gist()

  • Claire C Smith

    When I visited the South Downs Planetarium, hosted by Dr John Mason (BBC The Sky at Night), in West Sussex, early this year, I was asking him just as much about the projector, as the effect it creaTED on the under side of the dome, because it was a work of incredible machinery in its own right. I was in awe of the projector and how he got together its working parts.

    There is a circular (logic…) brick wall araound the projector, as well, as far as the McCain’s comments go…

    ..if they stop money for a planetarium, the next generation of kids becoming inspired by astronomy and science could become extinct by its closing. If so, at some point, that very kid to be scientist, could have predicted the next massive meteor hitting Earth. Of course though, we wouldn’t know, we wouldn’t have any Earth, any McCain.


  • Neil B. ?

    Here’s some revenge on McCain and his GOP supporters, by a political columnist using real physics (more or less) as a metaphor for their prattlings about “real American” and such:

  • Pingback: Overhead and down below « In the Dark()

  • Pingback: Apparently Astronomy is Un-American | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine()


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

See More

Collapse bottom bar