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TOP OF THE TICKET

Iraq's U.S.-style democracy at work

August 05, 2007|DON FREDERICK AND ANDREW MALCOLM

The Iraqi parliament is new at the democracy game, so this nation -- which took 13 years from the Declaration of Independence to the Bill of Rights and is still working to reconcile relations with minorities -- set some benchmarks for them to meet or else.

Gave 'em 90 days to do it. Seems reasonable enough. Sounds good on TV, anyway.

Still, the Iraqi parliament is riven by political factions that refuse to compromise and care not for the national interest. They're constantly arguing and maneuvering for future position. They don't meet full time. Numerous members are routinely absent. They talk a lot, but very little seems to ever get done.

The pressing need for a new national energy plan, which everyone agrees is necessary, after months of arguing remains just that: a pressing national need that everyone agrees is necessary.

Other important measures sit there unpondered while lawmakers fiddle with trivial resolutions.

Now, even while the war continues without break, the Iraqi legislators are taking the entire month of August off, as tradition and the capital's summer heat have long dictated. Never mind the invention of air conditioning.

They won't return to work until Sept. 4.

Now, let's contrast that with the U.S. Congress, which has had a couple centuries of practice.

With a new majority party elected last fall, congressional leaders announced an ambitious agenda. Members of the House and Senate began meeting in January but, riven by political factions that refuse to compromise, lawmakers have not accomplished much.

The pressing need for a new national energy plan, which everyone agrees is necessary, is far from being resolved. Each chamber has passed a bill, but they don't match.

The party in charge has launched what seems like 100 investigations involving officials in the other party. Other important measures, like a budget, sit unfinished while lawmakers fiddle with trivial resolutions.

Numerous members are routinely absent, and Congress took 10 days off for July 4, a national holiday that most of us manage to celebrate in one day.

While the war in Iraq continues without break, American legislators will take the entire month of August off, as tradition and the capital's summer heat have long dictated. Never mind the invention of air conditioning.

They won't return to work until Sept. 4.

Video girls gone wild

In the beginning, there was Obama's girl. That begat Hillary's gal. And matters truly took an unexpected turn with Debate '08: Obama Girl vs. Giuliani Girl.

Now comes Brownback Girl, the creation of the opinion page staff of the Wichita Eagle, located in the home state of the Republican presidential candidate that the video spoofs.

The video, performed in a church, features Bucky Walters dressed in drag as a matron, touting Brownback's views while "living in a sinful world." It would be rated E for everyone, which is safer even than G. The only thing exposed here are hands.

How much for pancakes?

In communities throughout America, pancake breakfasts are a friendly, low-key way for service organizations to raise a little cash while neighbors pass a convivial weekend morning. But here comes the modern presidential campaign, ready to bend such events to its fundraising imperative.

As Newsday reports, Hillary Clinton (with husband Bill in tow) will be in the Hamptons this weekend with more than just summer fun on their minds. Clinton aims to raise as much as $1 million for her presidential campaign during a series of appearances that included a pancake breakfast at the home of Democratic philanthropists Alan and Susan Patricof.

Cost of a plate of grilled batter: $1,000 (no word on whether bacon is extra). Want a keepsake of the memorable meal? Pose for a photo with the Clintons -- for $10,000.

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Excerpted from The Times' political blog Top of the Ticket, at www.latimes.com/

topoftheticket.

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