The Overview Effect

Astronauts return to earth with a message that makes everything down on earth seem small.

They want to tell us about a new way of thinking. The ‘Overview Effect’ is what they call it, and when one understands, they will have a new perspective for everything that happens down on earth. With this new way of seeing things, all of the divisive discourse and hyper-partisanship in our country means little when it is seen that we are all in this together.

Planetary Collective created this short film, and I think it’s a message more people need to see and hear:

On the 40th anniversary of the famous ‘Blue Marble’ photograph taken of Earth from space, Planetary Collective presents a short film documenting astronauts’ life-changing stories of seeing the Earth from the outside – a perspective-altering experience often described as the Overview Effect.

The Overview Effect, first described by author Frank White in 1987, is an experience that transforms astronauts’ perspective of the planet and mankind’s place upon it. Common features of the experience are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.

‘Overview’ is a short film that explores this phenomenon through interviews with five astronauts who have experienced the Overview Effect. The film also features insights from commentators and thinkers on the wider implications and importance of this understanding for society, and our relationship to the environment.

Rhetoric of our fathers: the election of 1800

Thomas Jefferson Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division LC-USZ62-8195

When one sees the elections of today, they think of the rhetoric that is being thrown at both sides. Every election seems to get worse and worse.

If only we could return to the glorious days of our founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Would it surprise you to know that the rhetoric was just as bad, or worse, back then as well?

The election of 1800 was the first election that had two parties where the winner would control the Presidency and the Vice-Presidency. The Federalists selected John Adams and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and the Democratic-Republicans selected Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.

To get the full story, we would first need to begin by looking at the 1796 election when George Washington, a Federalist, declared that he would not run for President again.

In George Washington’s Farewell Address as President of the United States, he warned about the danger of parties in the State:

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to founding them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you, in the most solemn manner, against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes, in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled or repressed; but in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy. 1

At this time, under the original Constitution, two parties did choose their candidates, but there was nothing indicating how to handle two parties for the elections.

In this 1796 election, the Federalists ran John Adams and Thomas Pinckney and the Democratic-Republicans ran Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.

According to the Miller Center, a nonpartisan institute seeking to expand understanding of the presidency, policy, and political history, and based at the University of Virginia, states:

Each party named two presidential candidates, for under the original Constitution, each member of the electoral college was to cast two ballots for President. The winner of the presidential election was the individual who received the largest number of votes, if it constituted a majority of the votes cast. The person receiving the second largest number of votes, whether or not it was a majority, was to be the vice president. In the event that no candidate received a majority of votes, or that two candidates tied with a majority of votes, the House of Representatives was to decide the election, with each state, regardless of size, having a single vote. 2

John Adams Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division LC-DIG-ppmsca-15705

After the Electoral College delegates cast their ballots, the Vice President, who was the presiding officer of the Senate, had the job to count them. This just happened to be John Adams.

When the votes were counted, John Adams had 71 votes making him President and Thomas Jefferson had 68 votes giving him the Vice-Presidency. This meant the government would be run by a Federalist as the President and a Democratic-Republican as the Vice-President. 3

Saying that the two parties were not fond of the other’s platform for the direction of the country would be a wild understatement. They bitterly opposed each other’s ideas.

The Federalist believed in a strong central government that would have the authority to restrain the excesses of popular majorities. They were backed by the commercial sector of the country favored by the electors in the northern states.

The Democratic-Republicans, containing many members of the former Anti Federalists, wanted to reduce the national authority allowing the people to rule more directly through the state governments. They drew their strength from those favoring an agrarian society which was the strongest in the southern states. 4

Alexander Hamilton Portrait Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division LC-USZ62-96268

Alexander Hamilton, a leader in the Federalist Party, once stated, “Men are reasoning rather than reasonable animals.” He disagreed with Thomas Jefferson’s view that the general public should control government. 5

Thomas Jefferson believed in universal education and universal suffrage for some white men. According to The American Pageant: A History of the American People: To 1877 by David M. Kennedy, Lizabeth Cohen and Thomas A. Bailey:

Above all, Jefferson advocated the rule of the people. But he did not propose thrusting the ballot into the hands of every adult white male. He favored government for the people, but not by all the people – only by those white men who were literate enough to inform themselves and wear the mantle of American citizenship worthily. Universal education would have to precede universal suffrage. The ignorant, he argued, were incapable of self-government. But he had profound faith in the reasonableness and teachableness of the masses and in their collective wisdom when taught. 6

The Democratic-Republican’s ideals may sound familiar today with their arguments against Federal authority, taxes, and the call for stronger states rights heard today by the Conservative and Libertarian Parties as they debate for smaller government. This debate has a long history in the United States.

The Election of 1800

By the time the campaigning for the 1800 Election began, many in both parties were angry with John Adams. The Miller Center describes the situation for Adams:

Timothy Pickering Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division LC-USZ62-47649

The Federalist Party was deeply split over his foreign policy. Many had opposed his decision to send envoys to Paris in 1799, some because they feared it would result in national humiliation for the United States and others because they hoped to maintain the Quasi-War crisis for partisan ends. Furthermore, early in 1800, Adams fired two members of his cabinet, Timothy Pickering, the secretary of state, and James McHenry, the secretary of war, for their failure to support his foreign policy. Their discharge alienated numerous Federalists. In addition to the fissures within his party, the differences between the Federalists and the Republicans had become white-hot. Jeffersonians were furious over the creation of a standing army, the new taxes, and the Alien and Sedition Acts7

The Federalists asked the electors to cast their two votes for John Adams and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, but they did not designate which would be President. The Democratic-Republicans nominated Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, but designated Jefferson to be their candidate for President. 8

During this time, the candidates did not actively campaign, choosing to allow their camps to run their campaigns, while they spent most of their time in their respective homes in Massachusetts and Virginia.

James McHenry Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division LC-USZ62-54696

As the campaign continued, the Federalist camp painted Jefferson as a godless nonbeliever and a radical revolutionary. They believed if he was elected, he would bring about a reign of terror in the nation. Adams was accused of trying to have his son married off to King George III‘s daughter and was trying to setup a dynasty. 9

It got worse when John Adams was accused by Jefferson’s camp of having a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” This led Adam’s camp to call Jefferson, “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” 10

Abigail Adams, the wife of John Adams, wrote, “In short, we are now wonderfully popular except with Bache & Co., who in his paper calls the President, old, querulous, bald, blind, cripple, toothless Adams.” 11

The campaign was getting particularly brutal with Adams being labeled a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal, and a tyrant. Adams’ camp followed suit by calling Jefferson a weakling, an atheist, a libertine, and a coward. Martha Washington, after hearing the attacks on Adams, told a clergyman that Jefferson was “one of the most detestable of mankind.” 12

One other event transpired that showed one difference between Jefferson and Adams’ campaign styles. Jefferson decided to hire a ‘hatchet man‘ named James Callendar to smear Adams in publications while Adams believed he was above these types of tactics. This proved successful for Jefferson because Callendar’s work helped convince many Americans that Adams wanted to attack France. 13

Jefferson and Burr tied for first in the election with 73 votes each becoming the only time in American history that the President and the Vice President tied for first in an election. Unfortunately, for Jefferson, a tie meant the decision would have to be made by the House of Representatives, according to the Constitution, even though they declared in the beginning that he was running for President and Burr was running for Vice-President. In a close vote and with Alexander Hamilton’s help, because of his animosity towards Aaron Burr, Jefferson won the vote and became the President of the United States. 14

This election was the first of its kind in the United States because it was the first where an opposition party replaced another in running the government. Even after all of the vitriol that was slung in this election, Jefferson’s opponents stepped down peacefully, which is very significant. This two party structure allowed the opposing groups in the government to have a way of transferring power, through elections, without trying to destroy the other side and allowing each to coexist peacefully, and this established a precedent for all of the future elections to follow.

Sources cited:

1 Washington’s Farewell Address, Digital History, Retrieved May 24, 2012, from
2 John Adams Campaigns and Elections, The Miller Center, Retrieved May 24, 2012, from
3 John Adams, The Miller Center, Retrieved May 24, 2012, from
4 The Election of 1800, U.S. History, Retrieved May 24, 2012, from
5 Kennedy, D., Cohen, L. & Bailey, T.A., (2009), The American Pageant: A History of the American People: To 1877, Cengage Learning, pgs 220-221.
6 Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804), University of Missouri-Kansas City, Retrieved May 24, 2012,from
http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/burr/hamiltonbio.htm
7 John Adams, The Miller Center, Retrieved May 24, 2012, from
Ibid.
Ibid.
10 Founding Fathers’ dirty campaign, CNN Living, Retrieved May 24, 2012, from
11 McCullough, D., (2008), John Adams, Simon and Schuster, pg. 500.
12 Founding Fathers’ dirty campaign, CNN Living, Retrieved May 24, 2012, from
13 Ibid.
14 John Adams, The Miller Center, Retrieved May 24, 2012, from

Will the Rational Majority please stand up

We saw with the emergence of the Tea Party Movement how a relatively small percentage of the electorate can vocalize their displeasure of the government. Even though some of their ideas lack factual merit and they showed many intolerant attitudes, they should be congratulated for their tenacity.

Imagine what a large majority could do. This example can be used to show everyone else that we do not have to sit and watch idly from the sidelines while intolerance spreads through the political discourse.

You only have to watch a couple of political ads from any election to see that the rhetoric is just getting worse with no end in sight for reason to return. As long as the reasonable and rational people remain quiet, the money being thrown into the elections will continue to grow adding to the lack of civility being shown in politics today.

Is this what we want to teach our children about how our government works? Is this the legacy that we want to leave them?

In the political spectrum today, there are groups that are radically to the left and to the right but there is an even larger group of the electorate that longs for the return of common sense and sanity to the government.

We are the Rational Majority. Ranging from moderate republicans, independents and moderate democrats, this majority can become a real political force if only they would unite and vote together to bring back the belief to more people that working together is more beneficial to the country than division and hatred.

We all see how a lack of bipartisanship in government is failing to meet the demands of the 21st century and the moderates have the ability today to show that by working together as Americans first, we can accomplish great things.

If the rational majority can unite, our vote can tell the politicians to get their act together and quit arguing like children. We all want to see our country succeed and only by working together can we achieve that.

Our government has been a beacon of light to many countries in the world striving to create their own democracy. Can we really be proud of what the world sees now? How can we degrade each other for political gains and how can we allow a small minority to hijack the political agenda from the majority? Honor is a value long lost in politics.

The Rational Majority can restore that honor by standing together and using their vote to counter the big money being injected in politics with common sense.

The United States is more important than just the war between blue states versus red states. By looking at the similarities that we all share opposed to what makes us different, can we ever escape this adversarial culture that has taken over the politics in our country. Let’s show the world that we are not a divided nation but one that is built on consensus and common sense.

Published on Coffee Party Originals