Viva la revolucion! Unidad para proyectistas! Photo by Richard Yuan of the Adler Planetarium’s now-controversial projector.

Attention, visualists! We’ve reached a historic landmark: we’re a political campaign issue! A projector controversy on a nationally-televised Presidential debate? Believe it.

Background For those not in the US, for some time candidate Senator McCain has been attacking “earmark” funding as “corrupt.” This is a system by which federal funds are included in Congressional spending bills. That spending has indeed grown recently, and in some cases has fairly been criticized for wasteful spending. Senator McCain has been a worthy opponent of such spending. But now that the election season is on, he keeps slamming scientific projects, like funding research into bear DNA. I’ve found that to be a puzzling example of special interests and corruption, unless there’s a bear conspiracy I don’t know about. And since the US spends hundreds of billions on wars and the military and bailouts of failed banks and insurance companies, a million or three on bears is a drop on the bucket. I imagine some bear biologist grant recipient wincing each time the subject comes up. (Neither party has defended the project, so this is effectively a bi-partisan mauling of bear researchers.)

Well, now the Presidential election has entered Create Digital Motion territory, by moving from bears to projectors. McCain has singled out Senator Obama’s support for an earmark to overhaul the Adler Planetarium’s projector:

He voted for nearly a billion dollars in pork barrel earmark projects, including, by the way, $3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Illinois. My friends, do we need to spend that kind of money?

Well, Senator, the correct response from a Create Digital Motion reader would presumably be — $3 million projectors? Obama for President! (Suggestion to Obama: kickstart the economy with a new deal of a Projector-Based Economy! Oh, yeah … we’re trillions of dollars in debt. Maybe not.)

Amusingly enough, this has ignited a blog frenzy in which the specifics of what projector we’re talking about becomes political discussion. Fact-checkers had a field day with this one, because, needless to say, that was not $3 million for a 1200-lumen Dell to be tacked to the ceiling. The Adler Planetarium themselves respond, correcting Senator McCain on a number of points. To paraphrase:

  • Democrats and Republicans alike support the Adler Planetarium
  • Planetariums are awesome
  • Science is cool
  • This isn’t an overhead projector. It’s a kick-ass SPACE projector. Hell, yeah.
  • We didn’t ever get the money

I have a tip to Adler on that last one: first, you need to lose half a trillion to a trillion dollars and endanger the global economy, then you can have money.

More at the TimeOut Chicago blog:

Planet pork? Planterium responds to McCain slam

Here’s an excerpt from Adler’s 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.

I can say in non-partisan terms I wholeheartedly agree with the Adler on this one. So, America, let’s get over partisan differences and agree that space and projection are bad-ass and essential. (Boy, at times like this I miss the Cold War, when we had an opposing force that motivated us to do awesome space and science stuff instead of rail against it for political points.) The Adler didn’t get that earmark, either, so I do hope they get their new projector.

The whole affair gets an amusing send-up by Flickr user Mike Smail:

A handy reference. I don’t think McCain meant that kind of overhead projector, but yes, still some confusion there.

Note: in strictly CDM terms, all of this gets more interesting if we find out McCain unwinds after a hard day of campaigning by breaking out his Theremin. In the meantime, Projectionists for Obama!

Before I get hate mail, no, I’m not turning this into a political blog. Note that the Adler funding had bi-partisan support, and what’s really at issue is fact-checking McCain on projectors. I expect this will be the last time we hear about anything this directly related to the subject matter of the blog in this election, so rest assured, we can now return to distracting you with visualism. I’m sure you’re getting as much election fatigue as I am, regardless of which side you’re on.

Oh, and when projectionists do become a major voting block, that will rock. Australia, maybe there?