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Wed Dec 28, 2011, 04:57 AM

Only 1 in 3 American adults can name all three branches of government...

Sandra Day O'Connor promotes civics education
Retired U.S. Supreme Court justice helped initiate an online program called iCivics because not enough Americans know how government works.

By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

December 27, 2011
Only about a third of American adults can name all three branches of government, and a third can't name any. Fewer than a third of eighth graders could identify the historical purpose of the Declaration of Independence.

This slim knowledge of civics and the potential risk it poses to American democracy captured the attention of retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

------

O'Connor launched the effort that became iCivics in 2006, the year she retired from the court. It initially focused on the judicial branch alone, but "it became apparent pretty quickly it was needed across the board," she said.

"It's very disturbing," said O'Connor, 81, the first woman to serve on the nation's highest court. "I want to educate several generations of young people so we won't have the lack of public knowledge we have today."

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-civics-20111227,0,3247832.story


I think we need to redo the entire educational system and put civics/ethics/history on par with math and the three R's...it's an outrage that new citizens are frankly better educated in this subject than the majority of American citizens. I often run across people who put on the pretense of knowing the issues, but in actuality have very little idea how the government actually works beyond perhaps some sloganeering (Tea Party, Ron Paul people, I'm looking at you), and it's frightening how self-assured they can be. I think the propagation of general hostility towards the political superstructure of this country doesn't help; it just seems to make people more pessimistic and self-assured in their prejudice. What behaviors do you see this ignorance expressing itself in?

Teachers what do you think? Why are we failing so badly? How does this influence American life? How can we change the trend?

For the record, the three branches of government are the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial.

65 replies, 12061 views

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Reply Only 1 in 3 American adults can name all three branches of government... (Original post)
ellisonz Dec 2011 OP
REP Dec 2011 #1
JI7 Dec 2011 #2
REP Dec 2011 #12
KatyaR Dec 2011 #27
YvonneCa Dec 2011 #39
fujiyama Dec 2011 #52
B Calm Dec 2011 #3
ellisonz Dec 2011 #4
LiberalFighter Dec 2011 #37
rustydog Dec 2011 #46
ChairmanAgnostic Dec 2011 #5
bowens43 Dec 2011 #6
Tx4obama Dec 2011 #7
ellisonz Dec 2011 #9
Tx4obama Dec 2011 #15
ellisonz Dec 2011 #50
barbtries Dec 2011 #11
Tx4obama Dec 2011 #13
Glassunion Dec 2011 #45
barbtries Dec 2011 #8
City Lights Dec 2011 #25
Tesha Dec 2011 #10
enough Dec 2011 #19
tblue37 Dec 2011 #56
City Lights Dec 2011 #24
Ichingcarpenter Dec 2011 #14
Soylent Brice Dec 2011 #34
Ilsa Dec 2011 #43
hobbit709 Dec 2011 #16
Justice wanted Dec 2011 #17
KharmaTrain Dec 2011 #18
HereSince1628 Dec 2011 #20
Ichingcarpenter Dec 2011 #21
HopeHoops Dec 2011 #22
VWolf Dec 2011 #23
asjr Dec 2011 #26
tjwash Dec 2011 #28
SOS Dec 2011 #29
Land Shark Dec 2011 #30
JI7 Dec 2011 #32
tblue37 Dec 2011 #57
MineralMan Dec 2011 #31
JI7 Dec 2011 #33
ellisonz Dec 2011 #51
DavidDvorkin Dec 2011 #35
tawadi Dec 2011 #49
DavidDvorkin Dec 2011 #59
Glassunion Dec 2011 #36
Control-Z Dec 2011 #41
CakeGrrl Dec 2011 #38
William769 Dec 2011 #40
The Genealogist Dec 2011 #42
ellisonz Dec 2011 #53
The Genealogist Dec 2011 #61
Cali_Democrat Dec 2011 #44
ellisonz Dec 2011 #54
T S Justly Dec 2011 #47
tblue37 Dec 2011 #48
ellisonz Dec 2011 #55
frazzled Dec 2011 #58
book_worm Dec 2011 #60
WinkyDink Dec 2011 #62
NNN0LHI Dec 2011 #63
Javaman Dec 2011 #64
Arugula Latte Dec 2011 #65

Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 05:03 AM

1. The humanities suffer; Math and Science are all that anyone care about

Harper's had a very good piece on how the teaching of Humanities is neglected as Math and Science (test scores especially) are fetishized. I can't remember what issue; within the last 2 years.

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Response to REP (Reply #1)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 05:08 AM

2. yeah, but are people better in math and science ?

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Response to JI7 (Reply #2)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 06:28 AM

12. More time is devoted to it in K-12

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Response to REP (Reply #1)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 12:21 PM

27. Here's the link:

http://harpers.org/archive/2009/09/0082640

Thanks for the article--interesting reading.

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Response to REP (Reply #1)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 06:00 PM

39. NCLB mandated testing for Reading and Math ONLY...

...back in the early 2000's. In MANY districts, this pressure to do well in those two subjects caused administrators to undermine and punish the teaching of any other subjects...including history and civics education. While important to democracy, poor performance in those subjects would NOT lead to sanctions against a school district under NCLB. This was particularly prevalent in Title I schools/districts, even though states had curricular mandates that included (and still include) the teaching of history and science.

Many educators I know have been speaking out about this for a decade. In California, I think we finally have a Governor (in Jerry Brown) and a Supt. of Public Instruction (in Tom Torlakson) who get this and are trying to restore a full curriculum. They have their work cut out for them.

As a teacher, I think this is one of the BEST arguments around to make sure we ALWAYS support a free, PUBLIC education for all our children. I am glad that people like former (GHWB) Asst. Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch, are speaking out. Former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is right:

O'Connor launched the effort that became iCivics in 2006, the year she retired from the court. It initially focused on the judicial branch alone, but "it became apparent pretty quickly it was needed across the board," she said.

"It's very disturbing," said O'Connor, 81, the first woman to serve on the nation's highest court. "I want to educate several generations of young people so we won't have the lack of public knowledge we have today."


Maybe she and Ravitch should join forces...

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Response to REP (Reply #1)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 12:41 AM

52. Math and Science may be "fetishized"

but we're falling well behind in those subjects as well, compared to much of the world. I don't care how many excuses I get on this board about outsourcing and H1Bs. We're not producing nearly enough engineers and scientists. Also, if you believe that society is shortchanging the humanities and social sciences for the hard sciences and math, you are sadly mistaken. Note the way "egghead" scientists and mocked by the GOP. The one candidate in that party that actually advocates listening to scientists on the issues of climate and change and evolution has a whopping 1-5%.

Besides a well rounded and challenging curriculum would produce people well versed in many subjects - from math and science, to the arts and the humanities.

Face it, Americans simply don't want to learn. PERIOD. Learning itself is derided and anti intellectualism is seemingly more rampant now than ever before. If it has nothing to do with booze, titties, and football...well you've lost the attention of a large % of the population right there (not that there's anything wrong liking those things, but that's what's REALLY fetishized!).

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 05:21 AM

3. You wouldn't believe how many republican

co workers I have silenced through the years by asking them to name the three branches of government.

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Response to B Calm (Reply #3)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 05:23 AM

4. It's a good tactic...

Although, people can just become really agitated when you crush their little world like that. I always get a stern lecture before any family party on playing nice with politics.

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Response to B Calm (Reply #3)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 05:55 PM

37. I'll have to remember asking them when confronted.

I'll also ask them which branch of the government is mentioned in Article I of the Constitution. And then explain to them why they are in Article I and not in Article II.

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Response to B Calm (Reply #3)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 06:36 PM

46. Lemme see: Oak, Pine and Ash! So there, three branches

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 05:39 AM

5. Abc. NBC, and Fox.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 05:52 AM

6. Legislative, the Executive and Corporate branches? nt

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 06:00 AM

7. I sent out some Tweets to educate my Twitter followers :)

Tx4Obama
There are 9 Supreme Court Justices. Justices have life tenure (unless impeached) #p2 #Obama #OFA #gop #teaparty #knowledge #FOK
18 seconds ago

Tx4Obama
There are a total of 435 members of the U.S House of Representatives. #p2 #Obama #OFA #gop #teaparty #knowledge #FOK
4 minutes ago

Tx4Obama
There are two chambers of Congress, The Senate and The House. #p2 #Obama #OFA #gop #teaparty #knowledge #FOK
6 minutes ago

Tx4Obama
There are 100 U.S. Senators in Congress, 2 from each of the 50 states of The USA. #p2 #Obama #OFA #gop #teaparty #knowledge #FOK
8 minutes ago

Tx4Obama
There are THREE branches of government: The Executive, The Legislative, and the Judicial. #p2 #Obama #OFA #gop #teaparty #knowledge #FOK
9 minutes ago

Every little bit helps




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Response to Tx4obama (Reply #7)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 06:21 AM

9. It's posts like this that make me wish...

...we had the emoticon.

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Response to ellisonz (Reply #9)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 06:37 AM

15. Here ya go - just highlight the image, copy it, and save it somewhere



Or use the text below by putting it all on one line:

http://www.
democraticunderground.
com/discuss/images/yourock.gif

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Response to Tx4obama (Reply #15)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 12:36 AM

50. This is true.

Mahalo

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Response to Tx4obama (Reply #7)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 06:24 AM

11. a public service

i hope you have lots of followers

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Response to barbtries (Reply #11)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 06:32 AM

13. Not nearly enough, only 1,640. n/t

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Response to Tx4obama (Reply #13)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 06:34 PM

45. Not bad... I could tweet the cure for cancer in my

dying breath and it would never reach society. 9 people would get it, none of which I would trust with that info.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 06:18 AM

8. i believe the ptb want it this way.

the better to enslave the people...
the dumbing down of america

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Response to barbtries (Reply #8)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 09:23 AM

25. I think you're correct!

No needed!

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)


Response to Tesha (Reply #10)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 08:01 AM

19. Right. That tends to get forgotten.

There was a long profile of O'Connor in the Philadelphia Inquirer when she resigned. Many pages, covering her entire career and legacy. Written by a "serious" political reporter. Bush v. Gore was not even mentioned.

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Response to enough (Reply #19)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 12:48 AM

56. She wanted to resign to take care of her husband (he had

Alzheimer's), but she didn't want a Democratic president to get to name her successor, so she helped appoint W to the presidency.

Afterward, when she saw how awful the Cheney/Bush administration was, she began to give speeches and interviews deploring the way they were shredding the Constitution.

I believe she actually felt shame over having helped put them into the position to do so much damage to this country, but I don't think anything she did then or does now can ever wipe that stain from her record. As Lady Macbeth says of her own guilt: "Here's the smell of the blood still. All the / perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this / little hand. O, O, O!"

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Response to Tesha (Reply #10)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 09:19 AM

24. I couldn't agree more!

She disgusts me. Her reputation is forever stained.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 06:35 AM

14. Hyde on the 70's Show said the real branches of Government are

'' The three true branches of the government are: military, corporate and Hollywood.''

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Response to Ichingcarpenter (Reply #14)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 05:36 PM

34. that sounds about right.

sadly enough.

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Response to Ichingcarpenter (Reply #14)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 06:10 PM

43. How about, The Military, The Corporations, and The Media? nt

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 07:35 AM

16. When all they do in schools is teach how to take the standardized tests.

It doesn't leave much time for actual learning.
Besides, TPTB don't want the future serfs to know anything about how the system works, they might figure out they're getting screwed.
Why do you think the slaves were forbidden to read and write.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 07:42 AM

17. This is a freakin sad state of our country and may explain the dumb signs at the Tea party events.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 07:46 AM

18. Understanding How Government Works Is Disdained...

The corporate media doesn't want people to understand how things work cause it takes away from their creating memes and manipulating stories. As witness by the "popularity" of Faux Noise, the less your viewers understand the better. Claim you know the Constitution without doing more than carrying it around. Those who actually read the thing and try to understand it are "rabble rousers". Its like the bible...only to be interpreted by those "divined" to some special status.

Sadly the lack of teaching of civics and how this country's government works is obvious around here with those who expect this President to make things like single payer or massive reregulation or demilitarization happen by fiat without understanding he has to work within the framework of the "balance of powers". The irony is some of these critics were ones who detested the previous regime's use of the "unitary executive" concept yet criticize President Obama because he isn't doing the same.

I'd be willing to bet 1 in 3 can't name their Congresscritter or Senator...but they sure could tell you who was the top vote getter on Dancing with whomever...

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)


Response to HereSince1628 (Reply #20)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 08:41 AM

21. Three branches: Corporate, Military and Media Monopoly

from the seventies show.... Hyde the smart one smoking a bowl telling the boys what's what in their circle.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 09:09 AM

22. What gets me is when the answer is "The White House, HOR, and Senate".

 

Um, what about the USSC?

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 09:12 AM

23. Oh come on, that's easy. It's the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. n/t

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Response to VWolf (Reply #23)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 09:41 AM

26. No it's not--it's Larry, Curley, and Moe.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 12:32 PM

28. Most people can't even name their congressional district or their representative

nt

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 12:38 PM

29. Easy question

Wall Street, Oil and Mercantile Medical.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 12:43 PM

30. I don't KNOW that this is the MOST critical information

I've seen other polls on much more critical-to-know information where the American people got it right, and by very big numbers. (e.g. on the importance of government transparency, especially on vote counting). Not being able to give the correct name of the branches does NOT mean that the person doesn't know about separation of powers or checks and balances. They can know those concepts but not know that Congress is the Legislative branch and the President is in the Executive branch. What this question tests is mere vocabulary recall, when the concepts behind it are the more important thing to test or confirm.

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Response to Land Shark (Reply #30)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 05:23 PM

32. but it's such a basic thing, i don't know anyone who would understand those other things you mention

and not be able to give the 3 brances of govt.

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Response to Land Shark (Reply #30)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 12:51 AM

57. In general, we need words to think clearly. Having words to label something

helps a person understand it in the first place and also helps them to remember it.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 12:45 PM

31. It's awful, isn't it.

However, I think such ignorance has long been in place. Civics and History classes were nap time for many kids back in the 50s and 60s when I was in school. They were the least popular classes of all. A lot of people may have been able to tell you the three branches of federal government for a while after taking a class that taught it, but quickly forgot what they learned, too.

Like you, I mourn the loss of any sort of knowledge about how our government operates, but I've long ago given up hoping that will change.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #31)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 05:34 PM

33. i never got that, these classes were one area where you can show current examples

and it always got me interested in knowing what was going on in our own govt, and even other places. especially during election years you can learn a lot.

i was recently talking to someone i use to work with and she told me she was going to new hampshire for christmas. and i mentioned how it will be a good time to see in person the election that is going on. and she had no idea what i was talking about. i had to explain about the republican primary.

even though i'm not supporting any republican i do have interest in what is going on. and i would find it interesting to be in Iowa or New Hampshire at this time just to see how things are.

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Response to JI7 (Reply #33)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 12:39 AM

51. Correct

People are clueless and it's in no small part because we don't put real emphasis on it.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 05:41 PM

35. Rick Perry can name two of them.

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Response to DavidDvorkin (Reply #35)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 12:31 AM

49. Damn

Beat me to it!

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Response to tawadi (Reply #49)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 11:32 AM

59. :)

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 05:50 PM

36. Wall Street, Big Oil and the NRA.

What'd I win?

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Response to Glassunion (Reply #36)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 06:04 PM

41. I believe you are the winner

for including the NRA.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 05:59 PM

38. The dumbing down of America - for real.

The scary part is that it's played for laughs (those cutesy quizzes on Leno and such) and not treated as a point of shame or something to be concerned about.

Ignorant and proud of it, 'cuz America's the greatest country in the world anyway!

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 06:01 PM

40. So are you sayng 1 in 3 American adults are not teabaggers?

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 06:07 PM

42. This is pathetic

They need to stop with the testing fetish and start education people. We were taught basic information like the branches of the government and what they do in elementary, junior high and high school. Hell, I remember being in junior high, and thinking "Why do they keep teaching this? I've known this for years!" Of course, my favorite subjects were history and government studies (taught pretty much as one subject in elementary and junior high in my district) and that may have something to do with my knowing this information well. I don't know exactly of how well basic civics are taught in my local public school system these days. However, my hunch is that civics is secondary or tertiary.

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Response to The Genealogist (Reply #42)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 12:46 AM

53. It's tertiary in that there's no test for it.

I think we should make students pass the U.S. Citizenship exam to graduate high school. Just an idea.

I was told in AP US Government and Politics to stop answering questions, of course no one else really cared to answer

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Response to ellisonz (Reply #53)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 03:32 PM

61. I did

When I was in high school, part of the 11th grade curriculum was a course called "Liberty and the Law." This was but a fancy name for "Civics." It was a requirement for graduation. And to pass the class, there was a standardized test on how the federal and state government worked that had to be passed with an 80%. You had to take that test til you passed it, or you didn't graduate. I do not recall who made the test, if it was the social studies department of the school, someone in district administation, or at the state level. I suppose one could call it a "citizenship test."

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 06:20 PM

44. HAHAHAHA!!!!

Americans = Dumbasses

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Response to Cali_Democrat (Reply #44)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 12:46 AM

54. It's really not funny.

It's

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Wed Dec 28, 2011, 06:46 PM

47. Their ignorance is forgivable. I, myself, thought the three branches were ...

 

The Military, the Media, and Corporate and Organized Crime. With the Military having operational control.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 12:30 AM

48. The Republican presidential candidates speak as though they can

wave a magic wand "on day one" of their presidency (as they usually phrase it) to repeal various bills that have been voted into law by Congress, as though the president has such a power.

But even here on DU, many people seem to have no notion of any limits to the power of the presidency. I also wish Obama were more progressive in all areas, that he negotiated more fiercely for progressive ideas and policies, and that he used the bully pulpit more effectively. But I am appalled that he is the only one blamed when Republican and Blue Dog obstructionism prevents the passage of liberal bills, as though he could pass those bills all by himself.

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Response to tblue37 (Reply #48)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 12:47 AM

55. +1000

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 12:54 AM

58. I thought there were no longer 3 branches: just the crazy US House of Representatives

which has managed to block every piece of legislation and obstruct every Executive Branch nomination for more than a year now, disgust even their fellow party members in the Senate, and completely ignore the rulings of the Supreme Court.

There used to be three branches. Now there's really just half a branch.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 12:36 PM

60. and yet how many can name all the football teams within every division! It's amazing

how little the American people care about things which are important and consider things that are, in the larger scheme of things, not important--paramount.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 03:45 PM

62. Cheney thinks there are four. He was the 4th. NOT JOKING.

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=3316434&page=1

quick civics quiz: Is the vice president part of the executive branch? You might think the answer is obvious, but apparently nA ot to Vice President Dick Cheney.

The man a heartbeat away from the Oval Office asserts that some rules that apply to everyone else in the executive branch do not apply to him.

Cheney has refused to comply with a request from the National Archives to hand over classified documents. The vice president's office insists that, unlike every other employee of the executive branch, that rule does not include him and his staff.

At a White House briefing, deputy press secretary Dana Perino was asked if the president believes Cheney is part of the executive branch.

"I think that's an interesting constitutional question, and I think that lots of people can debate it," Perino said.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 04:41 PM

63. This is exactly what we are up against

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 04:51 PM

64. 2 in 3 Americans can't find their ass with both hands. nt

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Thu Dec 29, 2011, 05:17 PM

65. So? They can name all three of the eldest Kardashian sisters.

So there's that.

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