My family is now officially a casualty of the War on Terror.
Middle-daughter Ellie, a member of National Hills Baptist Church, is even as we speak somewhere in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova - one of those former client states of the Soviet Union that no one has ever heard of.
Until the absolute last minute, we didn't think Ellie would be able to go. Persistent intervention from the office of U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss helped, but in the end we got her passport in time only through the kindness of ordinary folks who refused to let themselves get bogged down in red tape.
The nail-biting problems came because the federal government, in its infinite wisdom, decided to require passports even for people going on Caribbean cruises. Though the rule was later suspended, it clogged the system with applications.
I'm not sure requiring passports for cruisers makes me feel any safer. All I know is that Ellie came close to being shut out of a mission trip because of an arbitrary rule change.
Throughout the process, we got a taste of why so many people are cynical about federal bureaucrats, whether it's the Social Security Administration, or the Corps of Engineers, or the immigration services: They just flat don't care.
Not once did we speak to a single federal pencil-pusher who had a shred of sympathy for what their delays were doing to my daughter. I can't imagine how bad it is for people fighting for disability payments or wading through the citizenship process.
God won this round, though, with help from angels at Delta Airlines who helped get the passport into Ellie's hands before her flight left Atlanta.
And if there's some good to come from all the drama, I suppose it's this: Worrying about the late passport diverted Ellie's parents' attention from the fact that their teen daughter was flying halfway around the world to do puppet shows for poor children.
We'd appreciate any and all prayers for the group's safe travels. And for the reassurance of her parents.
So, who won?
The union bus drivers who sued Columbia County a couple of years ago, alleging their rights were breached because of union activities have settled.
Well, at least their attorney says they've settled. It seems the day after the lawsuit's settlement was announced, the drivers were still surprised to hear about it in the paper.
Especially surprising was their discovery that, even though any fired drivers will get their jobs back, none of them will get back pay - at least not from the pockets of county taxpayers. The issue still seems to be a point of contention between the drivers and the union, but county school officials say they aren't paying.
This fight was in essence a proxy battle between the drivers and the county. The union paid for the drivers' lawyers, while local taxypayers footed the bill for the county's attorneys.
If the school board and the drivers were paying the bills themselves, I bet this nonsense would have been settled long ago.
In any event, as all this ends, where are we now?
- The bus drivers had a long hiatus without jobs, and apparently won't get paid for the time off;
- the bus drivers' union will pay an attorney for, in essence, getting those drivers their low-paying jobs back; and,
- the school board essentially admits it did nothing wrong and will be able to fill some hard-to-staff jobs with experienced drivers, while taxpayers pick up the tab for attorneys to end the drama.
It's pretty safe to say everyone - the crusading drivers, especially - would have been better off to have kept their jobs to start with. Who, exactly, is the winner here?
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106.
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