Newt and the Fallen Fruit

August 28, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Posted in Disinformation, Dysfunctional Politics, Presidential election | 2 Comments
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Gingrich at a townhall in Derry, New Hampshire.  Date of photo: 8 January 2012, Author: Gage Skidmore.

Gingrich at a townhall in Derry, New Hampshire. Date of photo: 8 January 2012, Author: Gage Skidmore.

Isaac Newton, 1689, painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646–1723).

Isaac Newton, 1689, painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646–1723).

















Newt Gingrich has once again joined the chorus of those who promote misconceptions about Obama and welfare.  He is also pontificating at the Republican Convention in Tampa this week.

Obama should be honored to have so despicable an enemy.

As Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich has debased our political life.  He has replaced civilized discourse by name calling.  He tries to demonize those he disagrees with.  He played a significant role in zombifying the Republican Party into the party of the Reepos.

Although well educated, he has misunderstood almost everything he has ever heard or read about history and political science.  It is mind boggling that he has actually taught history at the college level.

He has written scholarly books.  But it is possible to write many scholarly books and still understand little.  How many of Gingrich’s books are quoted, or are used in classes, or are even read?

Gingrich is energetic.  But energy propelled by comprehensive misunderstanding does no good.

Some of Newt Gingrich most revealing statements were quoted by Garry Trudeau in his Doonsbury cartoon on January 15, 2012 :

“One of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty.” (Gingrich said that in a speech to College Republicans.)

On other occasions he modestly noted:
“Gingrich – Primary mission: advocate of civilization, definer of civilization, teacher of the rules of civilization, leader of civilizing forces.
“I have an enormous personal ambition. I want to shift the entire planet. And I’m doing it.”
“I discourage a cult of personality.”

He noted that video games “undermined the core values of civility”.  But he also created a  “directory” of language that Republicans should use when describing Democrats:
“Decay, sick, pathetic, lie, betray, shallow, traitors, hypocrisy, radical, incompetent, permissive, destructive, greed, corrupt, selfish, shame, disgrace, bizarre, cynicism, cheat, steal, abuse of power.”
He said that “the secular radical machine” is “as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.”
For more stomach-churning examples, see the section “In Congress” in the Wikipedia article on him.

As an exemplary family man, he allegedly said about his first wife, “She isn’t young enough or pretty enough to be the president’s wife.”  (But there is some controversy about whether he said that, according to the Wikipedia article on him.)

He went on to remarry, and then remarry again.
In talking with his second wife about his adultery, he said, “It doesn’t matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say. It doesn’t matter what I live.”
During his second marriage he committed adultery with the woman who was to become his third wife.  He tried to justify this later, in a public interview (see the section on “Marriages and children” in the Wikipedia article on him) by saying  “There’s no question at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.”

During the recent Republican presidential primaries, Newt Gingrich showed us how he would steward the public wealth, by repeatedly running his campaign deeply into debt, by a combination of unrealistic strategic choices and extravagance.

How did Gingrich become so conceited, so blind to his delusions and rationalizations?

I believe that the answer may that his first name instilled in him delusions of grandeur.  His doting mother gave him a first name that evokes that other Newton.

The Newton who noticed an apple that suddenly, seemingly unprovoked, left its branch and fell straight down to the ground.  The Newton who glimpsed from this common event a possible connection between the force that holds our feet to the ground, all around the Earth, and the force that keeps the Moon from flying off in a straight line, by continually deflecting the Moon’s forward momentum so that the Moon instead orbits the Earth.  The Newton whose mathematical power was so great that he could then verify that connection, quantitatively.  The Newton who so hugely advanced our knowledge of the properties and applications of light, and who so dramatically enlarged our mathematical toolbox.

If Gingrich’s megalomania indeed received its initial impulse from his first name, his mother’s choice of name did him no favor.


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  1. My physics professor used that exact picture of Newton in a slide yesterday… I have to say it deterred me from reading this until another day.

    • You might actually find Newton interesting. His personality and abilities were almost unique. He was not likable, probably because of the emotional handicaps he had to overcome. Those handicaps make it all the more remarkable that he grew up into an effective adult.

      He grew up fatherless, and was starved for affection by his mother. Nowadays, we would say he suffered emotional abuse. But she did ensure that he was educated.

      He grew into a person who could never become close to anyone. He was intensely competitive, hungry for recognition, and jealous for credit for his work.

      But unlike most such persons, he also had a unique ability to pick out, from the torrent of facts that rains downs upon us all, those that were significant, and were most worth building upon. He combined that talent for good guessing with astounding mathematical skill and originality. That enabled him to test, refine and verify his hypotheses. Some of the resulting achievements were listed in this blog posting.

      But his greatest achievement in science is never mentioned. By showing that general laws of nature existed, and could be expressed in a simple mathematical form that allowed a host of accurate, practical predictions, he set the agenda and the ideal for all of the scientific work that followed.

      I hope that you enjoy your physics course. There are many things in an introductory physics course that seem boring as they are usually presented, such as the problems with weights on systems of interconnected pulleys, but that actually have hidden within them fascinating insights into how an apelike creature that hungered for food and fled predators, and suffered from broiling and freezing weather, became able to convert very partial information about the world into safety, comfort, landings and return trips from the Moon, and the knowledge that the Sun will eventually swell to become too hot for us, and that our Galaxy will, not long afterward, be wildly disrupted by an encounter with the Andromeda galaxy.

      By the way, the description in this blog posting of what causes one body to orbit another is purely verbal, but is very precise. If you or any other reader of this blog encounters something in physics that annoys or puzzles you, I would be happy to comment on it.

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