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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.

JB:
It's not, but neither is it worse than any other earmark.

And McCain is highly dishonest for claiming that he can offset hundreds of billions of dollars in spending by cutting earmarks. Claiming that is blatantly relying on people having no clue what the relative sizes of parts of the Federal government are.

(Not that Obama is 100% honest, but when your campaign relies on people being absolute berks, you need to run for head of the carnival rather than President).
10.10.2008 11:52am
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
If their planetarium is so great and they needed this projection system so badly why didn't they raise the money privately? A few million dollars is hardly pocket change, but a well established institution such as this one shouldn't have any difficulty running a multi-year development campaign to fund a project like this. I went to the University of Oregon, a moderately well regarded public school in a small town in a small state, yet we magically raise hundreds of millions of dollars per year in private donations. How is it that a major Chicago institution is unable to get somebody to cough up $3 million dollars? My guess is that they were just too lazy and/or found it cheaper to lobby for government money. Predictable and rational, but still wrong.
10.10.2008 11:57am
TruthInAdvertising:
The dishonesty in the discussion about earmarks is that it is claimed that eliminating earmarks reduces federal spending. It doesn't. All earmarks do is allow legislators to attach their name to a particular piece of the pie. You can get rid of earmarks but until McCain commits to actually reducing the size of the pie, it's all rhetoric.
10.10.2008 12:03pm
MarkField (mail):
Just to add to the previous points, McCain's objection was NOT that this was an inappropriate expenditure (which would be a reasonable argument), but that it should not have been funded in this particular way. That's an absurd argument.
10.10.2008 12:08pm
therut (mail):
Nope not a penny of my Federal taxes should go to crap like this. If they are going to raise 7 milllion they can raise 10 million. Sick. The country is sick. I mean my life would be horrible without this place in it ------ wouldn't it?????
10.10.2008 12:10pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
So sight unseen, I'd like a bet how much the U of O gets in federal money, even outside scholarships.

This looks like a pretty reasonable science-education thing to me. It helps if you aren't beholden to glibertarian economic fantasies.
10.10.2008 12:11pm
b:

That's an absurd argument.


how so?

why should a planetarium in obama's state get their projector tacked on to some other bill? if it's so important, and so vital to the country's needs, can't the good senator bring it up out in the open?

and isn't mccain's argument two-fold: 1. obama, and others, have voted to fund billions upon billions of dollars of hidden spending. this is bad. 2. we don't need to be spending federal money on a projector when we have deficit issues. "we have to get spending under control" is a favorite mccain line.

mccain has repeatedly made both arguments. to pretend that he's only supported limiting earmarks is to misrepresent what he's said.
10.10.2008 12:15pm
common sense (www):
I've always thought the earmarks thing was about corruption and not so much budgetary concerns. When you can target federal money that finely, it encourages people to donate to a "campaign" to get the kickbacks. Alternatively, you put your name on every public building in your state, which amounts to free advertising when you run for re-election.
10.10.2008 12:18pm
just me (mail):
Yeah, I am not sure why the Federal government should be the one footing the bill for this projector.

I am sure there are philanthropists out there that they could have raised the money from. Shoot Obama could have donated the money from his book sales.

Or maybe a state or community funded thing.

But then I am not really certain that the federal government should be funding specific state projects-that doesn't seem like a role the government should take on at the federal level.

And I also think McCain is right about earmarks-the problem with earmarks is that they get tagged on to bills-they aren't voted on, and the president can veto them out. If funding for these things is important then they deserve their very own bill and very own vote, rather than just being tagged on to some unrelated bill to get some senator or house member to vote yes. Yes earmarks are a drop in the bucket of the federal budget, but you know what, when my family budget needs tightening, it isn't the house payment or utilities that can be cut, we have to cut the fluffy but less costly things to make ends meet.
10.10.2008 12:19pm
Angus:

I went to the University of Oregon, a moderately well regarded public school in a small town in a small state, yet we magically raise hundreds of millions of dollars per year in private donations.
Leaving aside that they get millions of federal dollars per year in grants and student financial aid, A large University has hundreds of thousands of relatively affluent alumni they can hit up for donations. A Planetarium does not.

Note that McCain's "Bear DNA" flippant line is also misleading. The research isn't on bear DNA, but on tracking and estimating the endangered Grizzly population using shedded fur to identify individual bears. But saying that would make the project sound worthwhile, which would ruin the talking point.
10.10.2008 12:23pm
TPJ (mail):
Adler's Chairman of the Board, Frank Clark, raised $200,000 for the Obama campaign.

I also like how the Adler folks said getting this earmark was a matter of national security.
10.10.2008 12:24pm
William D. Tanksley, Jr:
The dishonesty in the discussion about earmarks is that it is claimed that eliminating earmarks reduces federal spending. It doesn't.


You're half right. Eliminating earmarks after they've been passed doesn't change the amount of money in the bill; but eliminating earmarks as a possibility when constructing a bill changes the incentives for congressmen and lobbyists, such that asking for money from any single congressman is much less immediately fruitful.

As things stand, a lobbyist can reasonably expect a huge return on a single campaign contribution. Remove earmarks, and the same lobbyist will have to bribe (whoops, I mean contribute to) a majority of the appropriate committee in order to get that money dedicated, and possibly even bribe by enough to get an entire bill dedicated to their project.

In other words, the expected result is that less money will be set aside for any given bill.

I think we need some SERIOUS legislative reform. Add it to the list... Do we have a single functional governmental branch any more? The executive is almost entirely controlled by career bureaucrats; the legislative is completely chaotic and incapable of passing a simple bill without adding a million perverse and irrelevant local-benefit tags; and the judicial is taking over all tasks (well, except for initiating prosecution) for both.
10.10.2008 12:25pm
Angus:

I also like how the Adler folks said getting this earmark was a matter of national security.
It's not much more ridiculous than the claim that drilling in ANWR is a matter of national security.
10.10.2008 12:28pm
David Warner:
"it is fair to ask whether this is something the federal government should fund"

Certainly. It's also unbelievably politically tone-deaf (and innumerate) to choose this particular earmark as your poster boy for arguing against what is, in fact, a deeply corrupting process (not least of the public itself). Are they trying to confirm the anti-science tag they're getting plastered with in these 24/7 stem-cells propaganda ads?
10.10.2008 12:29pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Sen. Proxmire used to--possibly others did, as well--make a big deal about stupid government expenditures. I believe P called his award "the golden fleece" or some such.
You can always make something sound stupid, no matter how useful it may be.
As an example somebody once made, which may have been a metaphor, studying frogs' eyes can look really, really dumb. But if, with the technology of the time, we were looking for ways to automate watching radar screens, frogs' eyes, which supposedly only react to motion, might be a useful avenue of investigation. But if you sneer at "frogs' eyes", without the rest, it would look stupid, as would anything else described only partially.

That said, the projector is not a fed responsibility.

That said, the problem with earmarks is not that they are all that expensive, all things considered, but that they are used as bribes for legislators to vote for the really, really big expenditures which otherwise might not pass. And that's their connection to fed expenditures.
10.10.2008 12:30pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
The UO gets tons of money from Federal financial aid programs and government supported research grants, but they also aggressively pursue private donations. They realize that they are living at the government's whim and they also realize that they are not a major priority for the State of Oregon or the Feds. The UO basically does not have any other choice. If they did not build up their endowment and put a good development program in place the university would be devastated by random budget cuts. Oregon State University and Portland State University have basically given up on soliciting major gifts from alumni and local corporations (with the notable exception of PSU's engineering school) and they have suffered accordingly.

I agree with Mr. Lazurus' assertion that government investment in science and education is quite worthwhile, but everyone should take note that government can, and often does, stop the flow of its largesse for reasons that are bizarre, spiteful, misinformed, stupid, or just non-existent.

Also, a planetarium doesn't seem to do much to further the interests of the American government in the way that research grants for things like materials science, robotics, medicine, etc. do. That $3 million could have gone to far worthier causes.
10.10.2008 12:31pm
Navaro (mail):
"This looks like a pretty reasonable science-education thing to me."

Of course it does, it's for the children. I wonder how this 3 mil compares to the entire yearly budget of say an elementary school.
10.10.2008 12:31pm
RPT (mail):
Has William Ayers visited the planetarium? Noun-verb Ayers Day 7.
10.10.2008 12:34pm
markH (mail):
It was easily deduced from McCain's statement in the debate that this was not an "overhead projector" from the words "planetarium", "projector" and "$3 million". Certainly it's debatable if this is an appropriate use of federal $$'s but it's also much more defensible than many other earmarks.

What's not defensible is the honesty of McCain's statement at the debate. It was not dismissive, it was a lie. This is not an overhead projector.

No outrage here. Politicians sell bullshit. It has lived on after the debate only as a curiousity ( i.e. it's no midnight basketball)

Someone on McCain's campaign staff went through Obama's earmarks and decided this was the zinger. He chose poorly.

McCain owns earmark reform but he's wasted it as a campaign issue.
10.10.2008 12:34pm
Crackmonkeyjr (www):
I think that the recent bailout bill is a great example of why earmarks a re *not* such a horrible thing. Here was a bill that many people agreed was quite necessary for the country's economic stability. It could not pass because a number of congressmen were afraid that their constituents did not support it. By adding some earmarks into the bill, it became palatable to these congressmen and was able to pass.

Even if you don't agree with the bailout, it is certainly worth noting that ear marks serve an important function in allowing congress to work out bills that make everyone happy.
10.10.2008 12:35pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
Yeah, calling it an overhead projector was stupid. That is pretty tough to defend.
10.10.2008 12:36pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
But, Jerome, science museums also pursue private donations. I throw out their solicitations on a regular basis.

Whatever the merits of Uncle Sam buying a museum projector—having spent many, many hours at the Smithsonian, I tend to think it's a great idea—bringing up a taxpayer-supported university in contradistinction is absurd.

How much do you suppose the U of O or members of its faculty have benefited from earmarked research?
10.10.2008 12:37pm
The General:
Federal money shouldn't be used to fund local projects. That isn't what the Federal Government is for. Federal money should be spent on things that benefit the country as a whole, such as the military and homeland defense and the interstate highway system. Not projection systems, regardless of how badly their needed, at planetariums in Chicago or any city. 99+% of Americans do not benefit from such an expenditure and it is a waste of money.

While it is true that earmarks don't represent a big part of the federal budget, they are the "gateway drug" of federal spending and the politicians use these earmarks to fund their own projects at home to stay elected. If "bringing home the bacon" weren't allowed like this, the records of the politicians would have to stand on their own in relation to the real issues that people care about.
10.10.2008 12:40pm
TPJ (mail):

It's not much more ridiculous than the claim that drilling in ANWR is a matter of national security.


You're right. I forgot about our dependence on foreign overhead projectors.
10.10.2008 12:41pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
How much do you suppose the U of O or members of its faculty have benefited from earmarked research?


Probably, very, very little. Most grants are given out on a competitive basis by agencies such as DARPA and the NSF. Comparatively, little scientific funding is provided through earmarks.


Whatever the merits of Uncle Sam buying a museum projector—having spent many, many hours at the Smithsonian, I tend to think it's a great idea—bringing up a taxpayer-supported university in contradistinction is absurd.



The comparison is very relevant.

Government grants to universities provide tangible benefits to soldiers and ordinary citizens. They give us better computers, better weapons, better materials, better medicines, and all kinds of other goodies, like giving students an education.

Planetariums are edutainment. At best, they get some kids interested in science. They are nice to have around, but they do not warrant government funding of any kind. That goes for the Smithsonian too. These institutions could be and should be privately funded. We have more important things to spend government money on.

In any event, you missed the point of what I was saying. Let me make my point clear: A planetarium just isn't very important in the grand scheme of things and they had no business asking for government money when private money is readily available.
10.10.2008 12:52pm
Angus:

You're right. I forgot about our dependence on foreign overhead projectors.
You can drill out all the oil in ANWR and we'd still be completely dependent on foreign oil for our way of life.
10.10.2008 12:55pm
eyesay:
Federal money shouldn't be used to fund local projects. That isn't what the Federal Government is for. Federal money should be spent on things that benefit the country as a whole,. . . .


Three major tropical storms struck Florida in 2004. Considerable federal money went to Florida in 2004 to help relieve the situation. Was this an appropriate use of federal money?

I believe that this money moved Florida into the Bush column in 2004, and if the storms hadn't happened, or if the storms had happened and the money hadn't been distributed to Florida, John Kerry would have carried Florida and won the election.
10.10.2008 12:55pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
When the Natural History Museum was built in Norman, Oklahoma, it was partly done as a temporary sales tax in Norman itself, vited on by residents in Norman. The Museum has become a substantial tourist attraction and has almost certainly made the money back for the community, as well as serving its purpose for public education. It also is a Native American History museum.

Anyway, shouldn't this have been financed locally rather than nationally?
10.10.2008 12:56pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):

But, Jerome, science museums also pursue private donations. I throw out their solicitations on a regular basis.


Good for them if they are trying! I am using my mind to beam kudos their way. However, if they just can't raise the money privately that is a good indication that the museum is poorly managed, the project is not worthwhile, or perhaps the locals are just rubes who don't give a damn. In any event, the Feds shouldn't waste a second of time or a penny of my money second guessing the decision of local donors to not support a museum.

Let it be noted that while I believe museums in general, and science museums in particular, are just plain useless, I adore them and still send checks to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry even though I am an ocean away and can't even enjoy the exhibits.
10.10.2008 12:59pm
Anderson (mail):
Federal money shouldn't be used to fund local projects. That isn't what the Federal Government is for.

So write your Congressman and tell him.
10.10.2008 1:02pm
Ben P (mail):

Also, a planetarium doesn't seem to do much to further the interests of the American government in the way that research grants for things like materials science, robotics, medicine, etc. do. That $3 million could have gone to far worthier causes.


I think I could make a pretty sound argument that if we don't have children deciding to go into science training and becoming those engineers and scientists to do the research in the future that the future research will suffer. Further, one of the best ways to get children interested in science is to show them the majesty of the natural world in an engaging way. Planetariums and Museums are a large part of doing that effectively.

Given that I also believe quite strongly that the federal government needs to get spending under control, I am pretty ambivalent about federal funding for a planetarium. But that makes it a matter of competing interests and degrees. If it's something that has to get cut to solve greater problems elsewhere, so be it, but I think we're all a little bit worse off if something like the Adler Planetarium is allowed to fail for lack of funding.
10.10.2008 1:04pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
@Anderson:

I do write them. They are statist bastards. With the exception of Ron Wyden, they are rude too. To his credit Ron Wyden listens to just about every point of view and actually tries to workout realistic and effective compromises. I will probably never vote for him, but he has earned my respect for being a decent person and attempting to carry out his responsibilities in a kind-hearted and responsible manner. Gordon Smith and David Wu are just walking advertisements for term limits. Gordon Smith even personally insulted me at an event held by the Executive Club when I (politely) pointed out he was dodging every question presented to him. Even though it happened twelve years ago, it still makes me think that, at least as a politician, he is a dishonest, insincere, SOB.
10.10.2008 1:13pm
wm13:
The focus on earmarks is somewhat misdirected, but no more so than the focus on parties for salesmen and bonuses for financial services executives, which seems to be the primary concern of Congress and half the Conspirators.

Partly it's because unsophisticated people have trouble understanding the operation of impersonal political and economic forces, so they need to focus on discrete wrongdoers and episodes of malfeasance in order to make the issue real. An abstract discussion of the appropriate division of resposibility between federal and state governments, or the structural aspects of the financial markets which have led to the current problems, is incomprehensible and boring to most people, including most lawyers. By turning it into a story (corrupt legislators! greedy CEOs!), people fell like they understand.
10.10.2008 1:16pm
Kristina (mail) (www):
I think y'all are missing a big point that would have been apparent, had the entire letter been posted. THEY DIDN'T ACTUALLY GET THE MONEY! I don't know whether or not they've replaced the projector or not, but they didn't receive ANY earmark money. Much ado about nothing, which makes McCain's mention of it that much more disingenuous.
10.10.2008 1:17pm
wolfgang richards (mail):
Being from the Chicago area I can give you an example of Chicago's mismanagement. Millennium Park.


"It went way beyond its budget which had been $150 million when first proposed in 1998. The final cost of $475 million was borne both by Chicago taxpayers and private donors. The city paid a total of $270 million and private donors paid the remainder. Private donors assumed roughly half or the financial responsibility for the cost overruns."

Chicago can raise the money if it needs to. There's plenty of big money donors in Chicago. If they can slap around 205 million (privately) for a park, I'm sure they can drum up 3 million for a planetarium projector. In attending other museums in the city they have company logos and sponsors all over the exhibits.

The rest of the country needs to curb the pig as well. How many examples from Pelosi do we need to bring up?

Though I remember school field trips to the planetarium and appreciate it, It's time this country started getting its priorities straight. Stop Pork Barrel politics.
10.10.2008 1:18pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
Ben,

You make a very, very good point about showing children the majesty of nature and learning. I was inspired in this very fashion! However, I think a trip to a hospital, university, research lab, etc. would be even more effective. Developing better science textbooks, hiring and training better teachers, getting schools more advanced lab equipment, etc. should take priority over planetariums.

Billions for research and rigorous education! Not a penny for planetariums!
10.10.2008 1:21pm
wuzzagrunt (mail):
Earmarks are only a tiny percentage of the federal budget, but virus cells are only a tiny percentage of the host's body mass. They have a similar effect, though. Funding for a new senior citizen's center means exactly nothing to the overall federal budget. However, the relevant Committee Chairman's agreeing to include the member's project (or his threat to exclude it) can sway said member's vote on open ended entitlement programs, guaranteed-to-overrun-cost-estimate federal infrastructure projects and military weapon systems, and all kinds of other legal corruption.

Of course, all of it is a mere symptom of the federal government's complete disregard for constitutional limits on its spending authority.
10.10.2008 1:24pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
Hey, this thread is cool. I see lots of constructive and informative comments. It seems we are doing better now.
10.10.2008 1:27pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Went to our local planetarium years ago. The lights went down, the chairs reclined so we could look up without strain, and the squeaks from the projector mechanism sounded strangely like crickets.
Fortunately, I had primed my son to elbow me if I snored.
Museums, of whatever type, are to the subject matter as book jackets are to the book. And mostly, they fail to jumpstart curiosity.
The exception, for me, was in the Prado where we managed to get a guide whose English was good and who put the pictures in context, spoke of technique, and generally pulled it together. A couple of pictures by themselves are meaningless.
You don't need technology, you need organization better than that found most places.
10.10.2008 1:30pm
Ben P (mail):

I think a trip to a hospital, university, research lab, etc. would be even more effective.


Have you tried to talk to your average research scientist recently? How exciting is a theoretical physics or research chemistry lab?

There are certainly exceptions, but your average physics or chemistry Etc PHD researcher just doesn't have the ability to explain his work in a way that a 10 year old can understand it. Heck, a lot of them can't explain their work in a way that a 20 year old undergraduate student can understand it.


Museums etc (and I consider a planetarium a kind of museum) are about selling science, not doing science.

In a way it's just like lawyer shows. How well watched would a show be that portrayed what first year associates REALLY do at law firms? A lot of research is the equivalent of a first year associate sitting in a basement for 12 hours a day doing document review for discovery. Then that last 10% or 5% or 1% where you realize "hey we've got something really neat here" is the fun part.
10.10.2008 1:34pm
deepthought:
It's nice that the University of Oregon is so good at fundraising--esp. when you have an alumnus like Phil Knight (Nike) as a sugar daddy to give to the school.
Knight's donations have helped shatter the $600 million goal for Oregon's universitywide fundraising campaign. But they also have pushed the percentage of campaign funds going to athletics to 38 percent, far exceeding the 10 percent to 15 percent for athletics typical in other universities' fund drives.


As other commenters have said, a planetarium doesn't graduate alumni. Also, we do subsidize private donations through the tax code, so it's not like private funding doesn't have a cost to the taxpayer. It's just in a different form.
10.10.2008 1:40pm
DonP (mail):
Let's see, as a local "authority" (took all my astronomy courses there) on the Adler, and a guy who has been intimately involved in Chicago (and Chicago style) politics for four plus decades, the answer is simple.

Right now in this city every spare nickel Daley and his boys can muster up is going to 1. Obama's campaign, 2. The campaign to put Daley's brother in the Illinois Governor's mansion and 3. Daley's 2016 Olympic wet dream.

The answer to this issue has already been detailed with:

"Adler's Chairman of the Board, Frank Clark, raised $200,000 for the Obama campaign."

Not cynical, just steeped in Chicago politics and the "Here's yours - where's mine" mentality.
10.10.2008 1:48pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
I was taken to quite a few labs, hospitals, research centers, etc. during my primary and secondary education. The scientists and such were thrilled to have us around. They were also thrilled at the prospect of picking off a decent student to come in and do an internship (ie: Do their scut work.). The trips were very interesting too.

I know this first hand. I deal with scientists and other academic types on a personal and professional level on a daily basis.

I am not just here in China studying law. I am also doing work in human/computer interaction. I have one cousin who is a medical doctor, and another who has a PHD in BioChem from OHSU, a father who is a software engineer, an uncle who is a researcher for the Dept. of Energy, another cousin who has just started work as a university librarian.

Academics are generally thrilled that anyone takes an interest in what they are doing, even if they are kids, and are more than happy to share their talent and knowledge. If they weren't this way they would be academics. They would be using their turbocharged brains to get rich.
10.10.2008 1:52pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):
It would be nice if McCain, when he decides to pick on earmarks, wouldn't go after things that indicate a disparagement of science and scientific research. But then I suppose that sort of thing registers with the anti-evolution and anti-science Republican "base."
10.10.2008 1:54pm
Oh No You Didn't (mail):
"I went to the University of Oregon, a moderately well regarded public school in a small town in a small state, yet we magically raise hundreds of millions of dollars per year in private donations."

2006-2007 private donations = $95.88 million. It's neither hundreds or millions nor magic.

This analogy is not fair because universities have tens of thousands of alumni (and local philanthropists like Lorry Lokey) who are a steady base that can be relied upon for private funding. These alumni are grateful for the education they received there - an education which was usually the leaping pad to their wealth and success.

The Planetarium doesn't have this funding base. The beneficiaries of the Planetarium's programs are young children. The benefits are inspirational and educational, but are too remote in time and causation for these children to become future donors.
10.10.2008 1:55pm
David Warner:
"Sen. Proxmire used to--possibly others did, as well--make a big deal about stupid government expenditures. I believe P called his award "the golden fleece" or some such."

You mean Sen. Proxmire, father of the CRA? Golden fleece indeed.

"You can drill out all the oil in ANWR and we'd still be completely dependent on foreign oil for our way of life."

Until they drill out all their oil too. Do we die then?
10.10.2008 1:56pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
@deepthought:

Most schools have lots of rich alumni. Knight's generosity is greatly appreciated but it is not uncommon. Most major schools have such "sugar daddies."

In fact, Oregon's alumni are relatively poor compared to peer institutions like the University of Washington. Oregon's a decent school, but we sure don't turn out tycoons the way other institutions do. We just make better use of them. Given the relatively poor quality of Oregon's incoming students and the equally poor job prospects that many face after graduation we are doing very well in terms of fundraising.

BTW the remark about athletic funding was really a low blow. Knight has also given us a fantastic law school, a beautiful library, great athletic facilities that are open to all students, and a low-cost sports medicine clinic that basically prevented me from becoming a cripple. Knight is very generous to our athletic programs, but his support in other areas has been absolutely invaluable. We would be fools not to take him up on his kindness.
10.10.2008 2:09pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Is paying for this something only a knucklehead would find patriotic?
10.10.2008 2:24pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):

2006-2007 private donations = $95.88 million. It's neither hundreds or millions nor magic.



Are you only counting cash-in-hand (or securities) that go to the University of Oregon Foundation or are you counting gifts given directly to the university? If you add up the present value of bequests (discounted for inflation of course), other forms of structured donations, gifts given directly to the UO, gifts to the UO Foundation and all other university foundations, you will in fact find that the UOs annual fundraising total indeed exceeds $100 million per year.

In 2007 alone, Phil Knight donated at least $100 million for our athletic programs.

$100 million for Oregon Athletics.

This is only one donation on his part to one of many foundations that support the UO. He and many others make large and frequent financial contributions to all areas of university life.

It seems your 2007-2008 fundraising number is phony-baloney.
10.10.2008 2:27pm
lucia (mail) (www):
However, I think a trip to a hospital, university, research lab, etc. would be even more effective


Mostly bad idea.

When I worked at Pacific Northwest National Lab they encouraged everyone to bring their daughers to work day. Parents were happy to do so. Then, many father's decided that it would be special treat for their daughter to interact with the women researchers.

I still remember being bombarded with requests to spend time showing these girls the laser dopper velocimeter (nifty colored lights! Whoo hoo! Can blind you if you get a shot in the eye! Whoo hooo! )

People would wheedling to try to get me to organize the schedule for their individual daughter's convenience.

Of course, the lab wanted us to attribute our individual hours to real projects, and as far as I could determine no overhead charge number for those being asked to do the dog-and-pony shows.

I drew the line at 1 hour at my convenience, and restricted attendance to the first five who arrived. After that, we'd run out of protective eyewear. Then, I inspected all the girls outfits for anything reflective-- rings, watches bracelets. I made them take these off, made their Dad's stand outside the room and hold the stuff. I had set up cordons so I could communicate the importance of not sticking their hands on any of the equipment (lest shift a mirror and shoot laser beams into someone'e eye.)

Then, I did a brief demo with power set to "as dim as possible", which actually makes the eyewear redundannt. The student's got to see blue and green lines of light intersecting. Who hoo! I had little cartoon's showing how this was used to measure velocity and discussed why we might give a hoot.

The kids probably still thought the demo was boring.

They day may well have benefited the kids in some way.

Still, anyone who thinks getting kids into a real research lab or a real hospital is better than going to a museum hasn't thought out the difficulties involved in creating safe and interesting demonstrations on the fly.

Museums spend a good deal of time on any individual display or, as in the case of the planetarium, show. The same show is replayed time after time. They are the right place to take classrooms full of students.
10.10.2008 2:55pm
William D. Tanksley, Jr:
I think that the recent bailout bill is a great example of why earmarks a re *not* such a horrible thing. Here was a bill that many people agreed was quite necessary for the country's economic stability. It could not pass because a number of congressmen were afraid that their constituents did not support it. By adding some earmarks into the bill, it became palatable to these congressmen and was able to pass.


This is not an explanation of why earmarks are good. It's an example of how our legislature is utterly broken. Congress considered and passed that bill under the claim (which I won't debate here) that it was urgent and important. Instead of passing the bill, they larded it up with a million and one other things, almost all of which had nothing to do with the problem the bill was supposed to address. And they HAD to do that in order to have any hope of passing any bill at all -- no alternative received any real consideration.

That's the sign of a completely broken system.

Earmark elimination won't fix it, admittedly, but at least it'll make it possible to see the problem.

Very depressing. But I guess the executive and judicial branches are correspondingly broken; the executive is actually run by career bureaucrats, while the judiciary has taken over almost all of the functions of both of the other branches (minus accountability).
10.10.2008 3:00pm
Crackmonkeyjr (www):
Tanksley:
You are assuming that every disagreement can be settled with discussion - either a bill is a good idea, and the congressmen who oppose it just had to be convinced or the a bill is a bad idea and the congressmen who support it need to be convinced. This is not always the case.

Often there are bills that actually help much of the country, but actually hurt the rest (or at least the constituents in part of the country think that it will hurt them and therefore it will hurt the congressmen from that area come election time).

Take, for example, the steal tariffs that were put in place about 5 years ago. These were probably an overall bad thing to put in place for the country, but at the same time probably helped people in the rust belt. If you wanted to get them removed, you may have had to satisfy people in the rust belt that removing them would not be that painful. You aren't going to just convince them, because it actually will be painful, but you can put in place an ear mark for converting Bethlaham Steal Company into a solar panel manufacturing plant. This will soften the blow of removing the steal tariffs, and make the bill passable.

Some of legislation is trying to convince people that you are right, but most of it is deal making; and rightfully so. Deals allow legislation that is generally beneficially, but specifically painful get passed. Earmarks are how deals are made.
10.10.2008 3:21pm
Nebuchanezzar (mail):
The Planetarium doesn't have this funding base. The beneficiaries of the Planetarium's programs are young children. The benefits are inspirational and educational, but are too remote in time and causation for these children to become future donors.

The Adler Planetarium was built in 1930, which means the first six year olds who were "inspired and educated" by it are 84 years old today. I'm sure at least one of them or the multiple generations of six year old visitors who followed them have enough jack to spring for a $3 million projector for one of the planetarium's two theaters. Given it's on the shore of Lake Michigan in the heart of downtown Chicago, right by the campuses of some of the city's major museums, it's not like this is a little out-of-the-way place and not enough people have visited it over the last 78 years.

As a former Chicago resident, I love the Adler, I really do (to my wife's annoyance -- she didn't like the multiple trips I made her take to the place). Its exhibits are top notch and I love the art deco look and feel. But even though I love it, I don't think the federal government should be giving it three million dollars. That's not really what the federal government is (should be) for.
10.10.2008 3:52pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
As a former astronomer and author of grant proposals, I contend that the big problem with the Adler request wasn't federal funding, it was that this was an earmark.

The National Science Foundation and NASA have well-established means of funding proposals such as this; in fact, furthering the public's knowledge of science and space is part of NASA's charter.

What the people in Chicago were trying to do was make an end-run around the painstakingly developed procedures that both NASA and NSF have for evaluating grant proposals on the basis of merit rather than by political favoritism.
10.10.2008 4:07pm
Mark K (mail):
I see the question as why should the federal government pay for something the Adler can pay for itself.Most people would not begrudge federal assistance to small town or state museums if it went through normal budgeting processes.But why couldn't the Chairman of the Adler just write a $3 million check himself?From his bio,it appears that he could afford it.
Our current system seems to encourage "why pay for something yourself when you can get the federal government to pay for it."

Frank M. Clark
Born: c. 1946

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: Black
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Business

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: CEO of Commonwealth Edison

Wife: Vera (two sons)
Son: Frank III
Son: Steve


University: BA, DePaul University
Law School: DePaul University
Administrator: Trustee, DePaul University


Commonwealth Edison CEO (2005-)
Commonwealth Edison President (2001-05)
Exelon EVP (2004-05)
Exelon Senior VP (2001-04)
Commonwealth Edison EVP (2000-01)
Commonwealth Edison (1966-2000)
Member of the Board of Aetna (2006-)
Member of the Board of Commonwealth Edison (as Chairman, 2005-)
Member of the Board of Harris Financial Corporation
Member of the Board of ShoreBank Corporation
Member of the Board of Waste Management (2002-)
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Trustee
Notebaert Nature Museum Trustee
Adler Planetarium Trustee
Big Shoulders Fund Board of Directors
Carol Moseley Braun for President
Chicago Bar Association
Chicago Community Trust Executive Committee
Chicago Symphony Orchestra Trustee
Commercial Club of Chicago
Economic Club of Chicago
Executives' Club of Chicago
George W. Bush for President
Governors State University Foundation Board of Directors
Illinois Manufacturers Association Board of Directors
Obama for America
Obama for Illinois
Santorum 2006
United Way Board, Metropolitan Chicago
10.10.2008 4:23pm
Crackmonkeyjr (www):
Mark K: Chariman of an organization != the organization itself.
10.10.2008 4:27pm
William D. Tanksley, Jr:
Tanksley:
You are assuming that every disagreement can be settled with discussion - either a bill is a good idea, and the congressmen who oppose it just had to be convinced or the a bill is a bad idea and the congressmen who support it need to be convinced. This is not always the case.


Okay, let's look at the details. (Of sausage making!)

Often there are bills that actually help much of the country, but actually hurt the rest (or at least the constituents in part of the country think that it will hurt them and therefore it will hurt the congressmen from that area come election time).


If the bill is expected to help most of the country, the congresscritters who'll be hurt by voting for it can vote against it without the bill actually losing the vote. Right?

If too many congresscritters want to put on a show and pretend to oppose it, THEN the leadership has to start dickering -- but earmarks aren't the only way to do that.

Some of legislation is trying to convince people that you are right, but most of it is deal making; and rightfully so. Deals allow legislation that is generally beneficially, but specifically painful get passed. Earmarks are how deals are made.


Wrong. Earmarks are a particular example of one way of making deals. They've only recently become particularly common! Deals used to be made by patronage, calling in favors, and so on; only recently have we started to use the immediate gratification of "well, throw in some cold hard cash that I can brag about to big-money supporter X and I'll vote with you."

The nice thing about the old way of dealing is that it's intrinsically delayed (so that if you truly don't like the law that your patron wants you to vote on you can tell him you'll return the favor later), and it reduces the power of people who don't keep their commitments (since, obviously, if you don't tend to do what you promise a mere promise isn't worth much).

So earmarks are nowhere near as useful as the traditional political debts. They're also extremely bad for shaping public policy (as I discussed in my original message) and favoring incumbents over challengers (since the incumbent can perform emergency fundraising by providing earmarks).

Earmarks will always appear to be the nicer way to negotiate to the affected politicians; but they're more destructive in every way.
10.10.2008 6:08pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Looks like $6 million in earmarked Federal research for U of O, but I can't tell the time frame.
10.10.2008 7:07pm
Dick King:
I would like to propose a constitutional amendment.

I propose that there be eighteen at-large senators who are chosen by the nation at large, in three panels of six, with overlapping six-year terms. Every even year, every voter anywhere in the US gets a ballot with several slates of six [or some minor parties might field incomplete slates]. Voters get told which at-large senators are being replaced each time. A sitting at-large senator whose term is not over yet cannot run for a new seat and maybe extend hir term at a favorable time. [I think most states have that rule for their two senators.] The voter may vote for up to six. The six candidates with the most votes nationwide win. These senators would have the same rights and obligations of all other senators.

If you want to eliminate ties in votes on issues important enough to bring out the whole senate, I would be happy with fifteen or 21 at-large senators.

This creates a group of senators who have no incentive to do the earmark thing, and who in general have the interests of the nation as a whole as their portfolio. It's not big enough to be a dominant bloc, but it's a significant one.

-dk
10.10.2008 7:51pm
William D. Tanksley, Jr:
I would like to propose a constitutional amendment.


You know, I rather like that. It somewhat reminds me of the vice presidency, but with voting power.

At least you're thinking of how to address the systemic problem, rather than moaning about it like I was. I'm not certain it's completely right; the devil's in the details, and there would be consequences to the political parties, but like I said, I like it.

-Wm
10.10.2008 9:15pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
Good job, Lazarus! I read the details and both projects seemed worthwhile. However, unless there were some of very special circumstances, the UO should have had to jump through the hoops set up by DARPA, the NSF, and the other alphabet agencies to get their government cheese, just like everyone else. ONAMI and the brain scanner are great projects that have drawn on lots of support from the private sector. I would certainly be good for the government, especially the military. to take advantage of them, but if government money was to be spent in should have gone through regular channels. And if the Feds did not want to participate the UO just should have found another way to pay. The UO is definitely not hurting for cash.

In any event, my point is that if they are doing what they are supposed to do, a museum, should never need or request an earmark. They should be able to do their fundraising privately. But if they still want that government money, I say make them go through the regular appropriations committee. The fact that they are seeking out ear marks for what appears to be a rather large line item in their budget means that they are either poorly managed or crappy planetarium.
10.10.2008 9:40pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):

Mostly bad idea.

When I worked at Pacific Northwest National Lab they encouraged everyone to bring their daughers to work day. Parents were happy to do so. Then, many father's decided that it would be special treat for their daughter to interact with the women researchers.

I still remember being bombarded with requests to spend time showing these girls the laser dopper velocimeter (nifty colored lights! Whoo hoo! Can blind you if you get a shot in the eye! Whoo hooo! )

People would wheedling to try to get me to organize the schedule for their individual daughter's convenience.

Of course, the lab wanted us to attribute our individual hours to real projects, and as far as I could determine no overhead charge number for those being asked to do the dog-and-pony shows.

I drew the line at 1 hour at my convenience, and restricted attendance to the first five who arrived. After that, we'd run out of protective eyewear. Then, I inspected all the girls outfits for anything reflective-- rings, watches bracelets. I made them take these off, made their Dad's stand outside the room and hold the stuff. I had set up cordons so I could communicate the importance of not sticking their hands on any of the equipment (lest shift a mirror and shoot laser beams into someone'e eye.)

Then, I did a brief demo with power set to "as dim as possible", which actually makes the eyewear redundannt. The student's got to see blue and green lines of light intersecting. Who hoo! I had little cartoon's showing how this was used to measure velocity and discussed why we might give a hoot.

The kids probably still thought the demo was boring.

They day may well have benefited the kids in some way.

Still, anyone who thinks getting kids into a real research lab or a real hospital is better than going to a museum hasn't thought out the difficulties involved in creating safe and interesting demonstrations on the fly.

Museums spend a good deal of time on any individual display or, as in the case of the planetarium, show. The same show is replayed time after time. They are the right place to take classrooms full of students.


Just from your account I can tell that you were being petty and probably have an attitude problem. Would it really have hurt you to spend a few hours that you couldn't attribute to a particular project to come up with an educational and interesting presentation or activity for the kiddies? When I went on field trips to the OHSU, the Primate Research Center, and several other similar places the researchers seemed very happy to have us around and taught all kinds of stuff. If you don't like kids you should have just stayed home that day.
10.10.2008 9:52pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Some of legislation is trying to convince people that you are right, but most of it is deal making; and rightfully so. Deals allow legislation that is generally beneficially, but specifically painful get passed. Earmarks are how deals are made.
Then that sounds like an even better argument against earmarks than the one McCain has proffered.
10.10.2008 10:03pm
Dick King:
I do have one empirical question.

It is my fond hope that over time, with my constitutional amendment, enough people would come to like individual at-large senators that they would split, rather than voting for the entire slate of one party.

Do you think that if we had at-large senators most elections would elect six of the same party, or do you think we would often have split tranches of at-large senators?

After thinking about it more, I'm thinking maybe everyone should cast six or more numbered votes, with an instant runoff regime. The six biggest high-numbered vote getters still win, but this proposal might increase the number of mixed at-large delegations. The parties would be allowed to state the order of their candidates on the ballot, but the order of the blocks of the parties would be determined by lot and different in different districts, so some ballots would look like republicans: a, b, c, d, e and f | democrats: g, h, i, j, k and l and others would look like democrats: g, h, i, j, k and l | republicans: a, b, c, d, e and f . That way, the party would be telling voters what order to vote their votes so if a party elects some at-large senator but doesn't sweep the preferred senators get elected if most voters vote a straight ticket.

-dk
10.10.2008 10:16pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Jerome Cole

Just from your account I can tell that you were being petty and probably have an attitude problem. Would it really have hurt you to spend a few hours that you couldn't attribute to a particular project to come up with an educational and interesting presentation or activity for the kiddies?


Jerrome--

First, I did spend a few hours. To set up a 1 hour demo, I spent my free time (not covered by the government) locating the cordons, extra eyewear, and setting the system up so that it was sufficiently safe for five girls to even occupy the area and view the demonstration. I then arrived early (so as to greet the girls and inspect for reflective object), and spent time afterwards changing the experimental set up so it could be used for research.

In contrast, a museum would be able to set up something permanently.


Second, I don't think you recognize the difference between a university whose specific missions is education, and a national laboratory supporting the Hanford site-- which happens to the the largest trove of radioacitve waste in the US. Researchers do not have access to classroom areas because they don't exist. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of laboratories were located in areas requiring those with access to have Q clearances. Security in other areas is not as strict, but access itself is rather limited.

Part of the reason has to do with radioactive materials!

OHSU, which welcomed you, is a university. Educators are not required to fill out a time card to cover the specific hours worked. Moreover, since OHSUs mission is specifically to foster educational activities, funds exist to cover peoples time to do this. In many cases, faculty members write proposals and obtain grant money to set up the activities you find laudable.

So, in other ways, the faculty welcoming you may well have been specifically funded to do so!


In contrast, PNNL required specific accounting of 40 hours a day. Falsifying time cards to cover time to develop interesting educational activities -- like giving tours on "take your daughter to work day"-- would be a violation of federal law.

In my example, parents were calling with 1 weeks notice requesting others to come up with fun interesting demos to show girls on "take your daughters to work day".

Why you think it is simple to come up with a fun, educational activity that is more useful than kids visiting a museum is beyond my ken.

Museums and universities -- like OHSU which you visited -- are great places. The fact that they are funded to set up wonderful educational activities does not mean that researchers at national labs can easily set up equivalent educational tours on 1 weeks notice, with no funding for time or equipment, and no classroom areas!
10.10.2008 11:40pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
Your comments were very informative and I stand correct. I apologize.
10.11.2008 12:40am
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
I mean I stand corrected. Once again, sorry.
10.11.2008 12:41am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Richard Aubrey - strong agreement.

My favorite Golden Fleece award had to do with creating a tethered robot that could walk 20 feet. Of course that was the milestone at that point, not the end goal.

Agreed that Museums should be considered education, but this is about earmarks and the horse-trading that goes on.

Mike G: NASA ?! It's been more than three years since I was laid off from a great job in Air Traffic Control research because NASA was under pressure from the White House to move all funding from aeronautics (the first A) and earth science to space, and I'm still waiting to be recalled.
10.11.2008 4:44am
Xenocles:
So it's a powerful, specialized, and expensive projector. Point stands.

"Federal money shouldn't be used to fund local projects. That isn't what the Federal Government is for.

So write your Congressman and tell him."

If only there were some sort of guide or set of rules that outlined the powers and the responsibilities of the Federal Government... That would make such correspondence unnecessary.
10.11.2008 12:48pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Jerome--
Thanks.

For what it's worth, there are some federally funded programs to let students interact with researches at national labs. Generally, these consists of various sorts of internships. Typical programs involve periods of time as short as 6 weeks or a semester for college level students.

These programs often work well at the labs. (Though, they can also be abused and work poorly. But that's true of anything.)

Obviously, these aren't suited to giving many groups of school children a brief taste of what a researcher might do. They are more suited toward letting individual, older student who are already somewhat interested in pursuing a research career get a taste of what research is really like.

So, clearly the program doesn't replace things like planetariums and museums.
10.11.2008 3:39pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I was interested in science in high school, so the chem teacher got a couple of guys like me to go to a commercial lab where, among other things, we watched a mass spectrometer. Or maybe it was something else. Whatever it was, lights blinked and slow moving paper showed the chemical analysis of a substance.
FUN!
The guy in charge said this isn't science. In fact, in a lab, you don't SEE science. You see stuff doing stuff. The science is done by scientists thinking about the results. If they have questions, they set up other experiments. Which are not, themselves, science.

IMO, few of us are going to be scientists, so the best thing we can learn is how science works and how to read between the lines when somebody is pretending to use science to BS us.

See this laser, girls? When you get older, you, too, can shine lights around. Waste of time.
10.12.2008 8:02pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
David Chesler wrote:

Mike G: NASA ?! It's been more than three years since I was laid off from a great job in Air Traffic Control research because NASA was under pressure from the White House to move all funding from aeronautics (the first A) and earth science to space, and I'm still waiting to be recalled.

Yes, NASA. They still support education and outreach by funding planetariums and museums.

Sorry about the layoff. I definitely sympathize. I used to design visual and radar ATC simulators and trainers in a previous life.
10.12.2008 8:45pm
Opher Banarie (mail) (www):
In Obama's response to McCain's attacks regarding earmarks, he said this (from CNN):
Sen. McCain likes to talk about earmarks a lot. And that's important. I want to go line by line through every item in the federal budget and eliminate programs that don't work and make sure that those that do work, work better and cheaper.
Wouldn't it be nice if Senator Obama provided a few examples of programs he would classify as not working?
10.12.2008 9:36pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
Given that Obama has a laundry list of tax increases, just what is he planning to do (that we all really want done to us) that further needs reductions in existing federal spending? (Not, please note, that I have any problem at all with drastically cutting the size of government at all levels.)

As for earmarks, my simplistic understanding of them, leaving all the logrolling and backscratching out of it, is that this is unaccountable spending in excess of the budget, which seems (again simplistic, I know) improper if not illegal. And while a few hundred kilobucks is lost in the noise of the federal budget, the number of earmarks is such that, as the man said, a million here and a million there and pretty soon you're talking real money.

Overall, I have to wonder at the way the federal (and state) government spends money - our money on things that we should spend our own money - personal, local or state - on if we really need them, and maybe we'd have better prioritized things....
10.13.2008 12:08am