About That $3-million OH Projector…

… the one John McCain derided (see previous post) in Tuesday’s debate as an example of Obama’s legislative folly. First, a couple of easily-overlooked points.

  • That earmark — for an “overhead projector” — was part of a larger spending bill which did not pass.
  • Senator McCain voted for that spending bill.

So we have Johnny1200 holding up to ridicule an expenditure for which he voted, and which in the event was not made.

But in the interest of complete reporting, let us consider the item in question and whether it would have been a legitimate expenditure, or simply a pork-barrel gift to constituents. After all, Obama does represent Illinois, where the planetarium is located, and members of the planetarium board have donated to his campaign. This is what that three mill would have bought.

The three-million dollar overhead projector
The three-million dollar overhead projector

And here’s the story on what it would have replaced.

Chicago Planetarium’s $3M “Overhead Projector”

McCain repeatedly called the requested equipment an “overhead projector” which brings to mind the simple light projector your junior-high geometry teacher used to display transparencies. But the Zeiss planetarium projector Adler has its eye on is no simple teaching aid.

The 78-year-old planetarium’s current system weighs more than a ton, is around ten feet long and is capable of projecting over 4,500 stars on a 360 degree planetarium dome. Adler installed its first Zeiss projector in 1930 when the museum opened as the only planetarium in the western hemisphere. It upgraded a newer model in 1969, when humans first landed on the moon.

It’s not surprising that nearly 40 years later it might be time for another upgrade.

Still, you want to watch out for reckless spending, particularly when it goes to scientific projects. Next thing you know, we’ll be asked to give a handful of money to researchers doing outrageous, non-productive studies, like those guys studying jellyfish protein. I mean… jellyfish?

What were they expecting, a Nobel Prize?

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