Thursday, October 16, 2008

Try Private Earmarks For Adler's "Overhead Projector."

The Bad Astronomer has been taking issue with John McCain's references to Barack Obama's earmark request for "the overhead projector" at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. (Here.)

The Bad Astronomer is right that astronomy is really cool. And McCain's use of the term "overhead projector" doesn't come close to describing the complex piece of machinery used by the planetarium. Also funding the Adler Planetarium is worthy as is replacing its projector. But all that doesn't mean the funds have to come from an earmark in the federal budget. It will benefit Chicago if the planetarium's projector gets replaced. But it's no great loss to the country that the Adler Planetarium didn't actually get the federal money that Obama tried to steer his hometown's way.

Chicago is a big and world-class city. Or so I've heard from all the Chicagoans living here in San Diego. Even accounting for the ex-pats here in sunny Southern California, Chicago has lots of people still living there, many of them quite wealthy. There are many business there, some of them quite big. Better the people who live in the area, and the people who use the planetarium, pay to replace the projector than the federal taxpayer.

McCain has a point about the problem with federal budget earmarks. There are millions of projects in the United States worthy of funding. The federal government can't fund them all. The earmarks process results in funds going to those projects supported by politicians and their powerful friends. It's only happenstance that the project is worthwhile.

So, the Bad Astronomer does a public service by including a link on his latest post for sending private donations to the Adler Planetarium. Think of your donation as a private earmark. This is something I'm sure McCain himself would endorse.

In that same spirit, here's a link to San Diego's Air and Space Museum and here's one to San Diego's Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and here's another. Both museums in San Diego promote science, astronomy included, technology, and space and air flight. Both are worthy of your private earmarks.


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