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An almost unnoticed legacy of last week's Senate rush was a declaration of Jan. 17 as Public Employee Appreciation Day. In itself the phrase has a senatorial ambiguity: It leaves open whether the appreciation should be ''for'' the public employees by well-served members of the public or ''by'' the public employees for tolerant members of the public. But the lawmakers evidently mean the former - a bit of thanks to servants of the public (including senators?). And, for all the bureaucratic nonsense that sometimes gets in the way, we couldn't agree more.

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