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You take the good, you take the bad, you them both and there you have - the US Congress

capital3.jpgLast week, the Senate approved a bill, previously passed by the House, which is intended “to fix several of the most glaring problems with the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.” This is a good thing - FOIA is an important part of our government structure as it gives at least a little transparency to government entities, allowing folks like you and me to get our grubby hands on various documents to understand what the people living off of our taxes are doing. One thing the new bill requires is for all FOIA requests to get tracking numbers so that they don’t get lost in the shuffle. As someone who has issued FOIA requests before, I can tell you that this is a great idea (and as someone who has probably never issued a FOIA request before, you still no doubt realize what an obvious idea this is, which is of course why it took Congress so long to get around to it). Point being, this legislation is a good thing.

Congress also did a good thing in “adopting a significant, tech-friendly increase in basic science research and more training and support for math, science and foreign-language programs.” We’ve seen a steady decrease in our country’s prominence in the science and technology spheres, and more support for research and education is exactly the way to attack this problem, so again, kudos to Congress.

But all these good things are practically negated by actions taken over the weekend. In a 227-183 vote, the House approved the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, giving El Presidente the legal authority to continue with the warrantless surveillance program, and even expanding it. Bush quickly jumped at the chance to sign this into law, of course. The only good news is that the legislation will expire in six months unless it’s actively renewed by Congress, but there’s no reason to believe that Congress won’t renew it.