A Day of Atonement Wish List

Today is Yom Kippur, the highest of the Jewish high holy days. It's a day for atonement, repentance, and reconciliation -- things we all need more of, whether our mothers made us ham sandwiches for lunch or not.

So here is a list of some of the folks I would like to see forgo eating, drinking, bathing, cosmetics, and conjugal relations and, instead, spend the day atoning for their transgressions.

Any Yom Kippur wish list would have to start with newly-minted Member of the Tribe George Allen, who should make a beeline for the nearest shul to atone for his ham-fisted -- and ham-plated -- handling of the revelation that his mother was Jewish. First he took umbrage at the mere suggestion that he might be of Jewish descent, then he tried to hang on to the anti-Semite vote by playing the "but we still ate pork chops" card. And, if a growing collection of witnesses is correct, Allen also needs to seek the forgiveness of every black person in America for his serial use of racial slurs, including "the N word." One plus for Allen: some Jews refer to Yom Kippur as "the White Fast," and wear only white clothes to symbolize their purity. Who knows, Allen might already have the perfect outfit hanging in his closet.

Also due for some serious atoning is 52-year old Rep. Mark Foley of Florida, for those "sick sick sick sick" e-mails he sent to a 16-year-old male congressional page, and the even kinkier IMs he sent to a number of other teenage pages, including one in which he tells a boy that he's never too tired or busy to "spank it". In the e-mails, Foley asks the 16-year-old to "send me a pic of you", wonders "what stuff do you like to do," and mentions that he thinks that a friend of the young intern's is "in really great shape." Making matters worse -- and calling for an extra round of atonement -- was the initial explanation that Foley wanted the "pic" because his staffers like to keep pictures of former interns on file to jog their memories in case the teens ever ask for a recommendation. Sure. When confronted with the explicit and damning IM transcripts, Foley, the co-chair of the Missing and Exploited Children Caucus, and the author of legislation going after child pornographers and toughening sex offender registration laws, abruptly announced his resignation and issued a non-specific mea culpa, which is a first step down the penitence path... but he's got a long way to go. One upside: prison food is notoriously bad, so fasting might not be as hard.

Then there are the war profiteers at Parsons Corp., the giant construction company that was awarded close to $1 billion in Iraq reconstruction projects. The latest Parsons debacle is the building of the Baghdad Police College, a $75 million project deemed "the most essential civil security project in the country" by Stuart Bowen, Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. With the preparation and training of Iraqi police and soldiers the key to President Bush's "as they stand up, we'll stand down" plan, you'd think Parsons would take extra care in making sure the building of the new, showcase police academy was done right. Instead, the work on the facility was so shoddy that "feces and urine rained from the ceiling in student barracks. Floors heaved inches off the ground... Water dripped so profusely in one room that it was dubbed 'the rain forest.'" The place is such a disaster, and poses such a health risk, it might need to be torn down. Parsons, you've got some serious atoning to do! You can start making amends by holding your next corporate board meeting at the Baghdad Police College. We hear the Flowing Urine and Feces Room is perfect for senior executive retreats.

And, finally, this would be the perfect opportunity for Congressional Republicans to start atoning for putting political expedience over principle (to say nothing of the Constitution) by pushing through a torture bill that, in the words of the New York Times, "will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws -- while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists... a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation's version of the Alien and Sedition Acts." They should be joined by the 46 Congressional Democrats (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/28/washington/28detain.html">34 in the House and 12 in the Senate) who were so afraid of looking soft on terror they turned their backs on the Geneva Conventions and the basic right of habeas corpus and voted for the bill.

Gentlemen (and Ladies), start your expiation engines.