Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Projector to Nowhere & The Question Inside by Martin Firell

Quote of the Day: “Statistician: A man who believes figures don't lie, but admits that under analysis some of them won't stand up either.” ~ Evan Esar

Song of the Day: Drops of Jupiter by Train

Date: October 18th, 2008

It’s probably the most famous ‘overhead projector’ in America right now. The one that in two debates Senator John McCain mocked Senator Barak Obama for trying to get funded, pointing out that it would cost 3 million dollars while at the same time using phrasing that would make the audience picture those 200 dollar projectors in High Schools across the country. I did a little googling and it’s hardly your AP English teachers projector.
What the Adler Planetarium in Chicago IL needs is a sky theater planetarium projector because the Zeiss Mark VI projector which is 40 years old and malfunctioning is no longer supported by its manufacturer. The Adler had asked six Illinois U.S. representatives and both Illinois senators for assistance in obtaining federal funding for various projects. Both Republicans (including Senator Dick Durban and 3 Congressional Republicans) and Democrats (including Senator Barak Obama) agreed to sponsor the earmark for 3 of the 10 million it will cost to replace their current projector. The planetarium was raising the other 7 million with private donations on their own.
Because the earmark was not approved they got creative and put an option in their online store. If one was inclined they could purchase a piece of the projector to help raise the extra 3 million the planetarium needs: Give the Gift of starlight.

Because of the attention the projector received due to it’s mention in the debate, planetarium officials felt compelled to release this statement:
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.

I understand what Senator McCain was going for. Voters hear of 3 million dollars going to one place for one piece of equipment and start to think about how much of their taxes are going to pay for it and anyones knee jerk reaction is going to be one of shock and maybe outrage. Except sometimes earmarks aren’t evil. Occasionally they are for things that have a benefit to the public, which is what taxes are supposed to pay for, right? (I’m sure that is up for debate though.) They do pay for the Federal Government to keep the country going: Fix roads, education, to keep us healthy, safe (from actual enemies, not ones made up so we can exact a little revenge or have greater access to a resource we can’t get enough of), and supposedly help out in times of crisis like hurricanes and floods. Our taxes also go to pay for opportunities for people that might not otherwise have them, and yes, sometimes those people that get the opportunities suck, but a greater number of the time they don’t. They just need that boost to get going on their own again. I’m not a fan of giving anyone anything for free but in a country this large with the resources that we have no one should ever feel like they are alone. (Unless they want to be. And I mean, alone to make their own choices and not have someone snooping into their life, mind, or body to make sure they are living their life they way someone else deems correct.) And has been pointed out on a few news sites, earmarks make up only .06% of the entire Federal Budget. So for every dollar I send to Uncle Sam... well I don’t know the math, but I’ll bet that less than a fraction of a nickle of that dollar ends up going towards a special project that some Senator asked for to help the constituents in his state. And isn’t that’s what Senators do? They work for the Federal Government but their first concern should be for the people in their home state that elected them, and getting them things to improve their lives is part of that. Was the bridge to nowhere just because they wanted a bridge? No. It would have created jobs. The island that it went to would probably have been developed. It had a purpose, just not one that was as plain to see as the universe would be on The Adler’s ceiling.

... Or as clear as “The Question Mark Inside” that will be on the roof of St. Paul’s cathedral after


fermicat said...

People who want to get outraged at something usually do not have to look that hard to find something to get worked up about. It is easy to get people riled up about earmarks, but they are a relatively small piece of the pie, and the quality/usefulness of the requests varies widely.

JennyLu said...

Well if I were running for president (which I am not) then I would back up this 3 million dollar part for the planitarium. I say that because there was nothing I enjoyed more growing up then the field trips the the one in Sch'dy. :) and I think it is an important staple to society in general.