What an asshole.
From my former boss there from 15 years ago:
Adler president to McCain: Sky machine not an overhead projector
October 8, 2008
BY ANDREW HERRMANN Staff email@example.com
The president of the Adler Planetarium lifted a black cloth off a familiar schoolroom device Wednesday and declared, "That’s an overhead projector.’’
Behind Paul H. Knappenberger Jr. was an automobile-sized machine. That, he said, is a "planetarium projection system.’’
The overhead, "you can probably get for $10 or so on eBay,’’ said Knappenberger.
But to replace the Adler’s sky machine, which creates stars on a domed ceiling, would cost $3 million to $5 million.
Knappenberger felt obligated to distinguish the two after Sen. John McCain, during Tuesday night’s presidential candidate debate, criticized Obama for trying to win federal support for a new star device, calling it a "$3 million overhead projector" and dismissing it as a "pork barrel earmark.’’
Knappenberger said the mention put the Adler "in front of the American public as having been frivolous or foolish in asking for $3 million for an overhead projector.’’
"I just wanted to clarify that is not the case," he said.
Obama’s efforts to secure the $3 million have been unsuccessful. But Knappenberger said the Adler would try again.
The current star system — a Mark VI Zeiss Projector — was installed in 1967. The manufacturer no longer makes replacement parts, and the inside is disintegrating, so errant, escaping light projects onto the dome.
"New stars are appearing in our sky almost daily, [and] not where they belong,’’ said Knappenberger.
Some 80,000 school children, mostly from the Chicago area but also from all 50 states, visited the Adler in 2007, officials said.
"The national surveys have shown that U.S. students are falling further behind each year in math and science compared to other countries around the world,’’ said Knappenberger. "It’s not comforting to hear somebody who’s running for the presidency not support efforts to improve math and science."
McCain supporters charge that the planetarium earmark was a way for Obama to reward ComEd executive Frank Clark, who serves as the Adler board chairman and is also a major fund-raiser for Obama.
Knappenberger said the planetarium started asking local congressmen for federal help in 2005, before Obama declared his candidacy for president.
And from the Wall Street Journal:
Paul Knappenberger was watching the presidential debate Tuesday night when the planetarium he runs was suddenly turned into a political football. “My phone started ringing,” he says. “My computer went berserk.”
Paul Knappenberger with an ordinary projector and a star projector at Chicago’s
Alder Planetarium. (WSJ Photo/Joe Barrett)
The transformation of the Adler Planetarium, a 78-year-old cultural landmark on the shore of Lake Michigan, occurred when GOP presidential hopeful John McCain was making a dig at Democratic rival Barack Obama’s spending habits. “While we were working to eliminate pork-barrel earmark projects, he voted for nearly $1 billion in pork-barrel earmarks, including $3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Ill.,” the Arizona senator said. “My friends, do we need to spend that kind of money?”
Wednesday morning, Knappenberger called a news conference under the domed roof of the facility’s Sky Theater to argue that that kind of money is indeed worth spending. The planetarium has offered millions of students a chance to see something they normally can’t in Chicago—a dark, night sky—“an inspiring opportunity to get students interested in science, interested in math, he said.
He said McCain’s comment “doesn’t sit well” with someone who has dedicated his career to that pursuit.
He also pulled out an old overhead projector—the kind found in classrooms—to clarify the difference between it and the Mark VI Zeiss Projector that has been recreating a view of the stars and planets since it was installed in 1967. It is only the second projector for the planetarium, which was the first of its kind in the Western Hemisphere when it was founded in 1930.
Today, the instrument—which consists of two large blue balls that shine pinpoints of light on the ceiling–is in dire need of replacement. Parts are wearing out and replacements are no longer available. “New stars are appearing almost daily,” he joked.
Knappenberger said the cost of replacing the projector will run between $3 million and $5 million as part of a $10 million project to renovate the entire theater. Last year, the planetarium requested help from Illinois Sens. Obama and Dick Durbin and the area’s six congressman, all of whom backed the federal earmark request. At some point in the budget process, though, the funding was turned down.
The planetarium has received pledges of between $3 million and $4 million from private sources and will try again for federal help—as well as state and city funding—during the next budget cycle, Knappenberger said.
McCain pounced on the projector project again Wednesday, telling an audience in Bethlehem, Pa. that he had mentioned the projector at the debate and added: “Coincidentally, the chairman of that planetarium pledged to raise more than $200,000 for Sen. Obama’s campaign. We don’t know if they ever discussed the money for the planetarium, and no one has asked Sen. Obama. But even the appearance of this kind of insider-dealing disgusts Americans. I’m going to put a stop to that, my friends, if I’m president.”
University of Chicago Professor says:
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).
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 (http://adlerplanetarium.org) 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?