Adler Planetarium Defends Earmark:

Chicago's Adler Planetarium (no relation) was not happy to have its request for a $3 million congressional earmark to fund a projector derided by Senator John McCain.

The first planetarium in the Western hemisphere, the Adler, took exception to it being used as an illustration of government waste in comments made by Republican presidential candidate John McCain during the Oct. 7 presidential debate.

When expressing opposition to earmarks, McCain said: "While we were working to eliminate these pork barrel earmarks he [Senator Obama] voted for nearly $1 billion in pork barrel earmark projects. Including $3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Illinois. My friends, do we need to spend that kind of money?"

The Adler issued a statement to clarify that the Planetarium made an unsuccessful request to several legislators for federal support to replace the projector in the 78-year-old public facility's Sky Theater. The projector had been replaced just once before, in 1969.

"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 organization said in a written statement. "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."

I fully agree that it is a bit dismissive to characterize this as a request for an "overhead projector," and the Adler Planetarium is a premier facility (and has a great name), but I still think it is fair to ask whether this is something the federal government should fund.