Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!
It’s our last day at sea and it is foggy. It was too foggy to see much earlier in the day, but, as we near Vancouver, it is becoming less so.
I went up to the 14th floor to play trivia. (General Knowledge) I was seated near a woman from Australia who was complaining about the cost of the drink package onboard. If you are wise, you’ll invest in a drink package, but whether you plan to drink alcoholic beverages or just soft drinks makes a difference.
We have a drink package that will allow most wines and pop, but last night, when I ordered a Bailey’s on the Rocks, there was a $1 upcharge. I normally am simply picking up cans of Diet Coke to take to our room for the small refrigerator, but the small refrigerator gave up the ghost and began leaking about 3 days ago, so no way to keep it cold.
I asked the woman about her gripe regarding the drink package she had selected and she said she didn’t drink enough to make it worth while. I said, “Well, you could just get the one for soft drinks.” Her answer: “I don’t drink pop.” O…..K…. So, according to this Australian native, she will not be cruising again. (This was her first). Hmmmmm. Why buy a drink package at all if you don’t plan to drink ANY soft drinks and barely drink alcoholic beverages? The dining room provides lemonade and iced tea and other such beverages with the meals. You do need to budget at least $175 for having up to 2 devices allowed to use the Internet.
There are a ton of Asian children onboard. We think they are mainly from Canada, which doesn’t start school until after Labor Day. There are special “Asian food” parts in the dining room for lunch.
Last night we were served lobster tail or Beef Wellington and a choice of appetizers (I had a Caesar salad; Craig has been having mainly shrimp cocktail). There has also been onion soup and other delectables, with a dessert menu featuring baked Alaska, tiramisu, ice creams, berry crumbles, etc.
Alaska from the air.
We were sent a bottle of wine to our cabin, but the refrigerator has not been cooperating on keeping it cold. We’re packed and we leave early tomorrow.
Ketchikan is near the southernmost tip of Alaska’s panhandle and is a small town squeezed between mountain and sea. It gets its name from the Tlingit Indian name, Ketchikan, meaning “Thundering Wings of an Eagle.” If you climb the 3,000 foot Deer Mountain that overlooks the town, the town, a Tlingit summer fishing camp, sprawls in the shape of an eagle in flight. It’s only a small town of 8,245, but it has Hoona beat hollow (our first stop at Icy Strait, Alaska) because that town only has 760 residents AND it takes 3 and 1/2 hours to get to civilization by boat AND that boat only runs 2 days a week! So, as our guide said, “Everybody knows everybody and we have zero crime.”
Helicopter to the Mendenhall Glacier.
Ketchikan, which is near Craig, is known as the Salmon Capital of Alaska, but Salmon cities abound up here in the North to Alaska area. All we have for an “activity” in this town is a trolley pass for the day. We plan to wander in and drift around among the many jewelry stores and those that are touting fur or bamboo goods (because they are softer than cotton).
We did our flying (both plane and helicopter) on the past 2 stops, and all I can say for those of you thinking of making this trip is to bring plenty of money for the opportunities to fly over the glaciers. They don’t give those trips away and you’ll be shelling out hundreds, per opportunity. Well worth it? For us, yes, because I don’t anticipate strolling over to Sarah Palin’s house to watch Russia from her porch any time in the future, and this will probably be my only chance to visit our 50th state.
Craig on the glacier. There is actually a town named “Craig” near Ketchikan, where we dock today.
Cruising the Mendenhall Glacier.
Passing ship (the SilverSea?)
Craig and Connie Wilson on Mendenhall Glacier on 8/29/2019
This trip ends on Sunday, as we go back to Vancouver, British Columbia to depart for a plane trip back to Chicago, flying through San Francisco, this time.
We flew in a small plane (Cessna) with 8 people on Wednesday to view the Hubbard Glacier and today we went up in a helicopter with a grand total of 5 of us, to view and walk on the Mendenhall Glacier.
The Mendenhall Glacier is about 9 miles outside of Juneau, Alaska. The ice
Craig and Connie Wilson on Mendenhall Glacier on 8/29/2019
is rapidly retreating and, 5 years ago, some of the bluffs nearby were also part of the glacier. Not any more.
We were given walking stick when we landed on the glacier and instructions were very clear as to where to walk (stay away from the whirring blades at the back of the copter.) Anyone over 250 lbs. had to pay an extra $100.
Merrick was our pilot and the entire time on the approximately 40 degree temperature glacier, for which we were given special boots that go on over your shoes, was about 13 minutes. Not a lot to do on a glacier in August, but one of the help was wearing nothing but a sports shirt and no coat, while I look like Nanook of the North.
Hoona, Icy Strait, Alaska
Juneau, Alaska, 8/29/19. Sixty-nine degrees.
Near Hubbard Glacier.
Celebrity Eclipse from the air, Icy Strait, Alaska.
Getting ready to disembark in Juneau, Alaska, capital of the state. Population: 32,500. The largest state capitol by area in the U.S.
Here, we will get on a helicopter and then walk on a glacier, which promises to be unusual, interesting, and, possibly, cold. Not sure how cold it is out today, but it was NOT that cold in Hoona, Icy Strait, and I ended up stowing the huge jacket bought on the boat in the luggage part of the small plane for eight.
These pictures (if they upload) were taken from the plane in Hoona…which I may be misspelling. That “town” had a population of 706. It takes them 3 and 1/2 hours to get to the mainland area, which is a trip only available 2x a week
The trip by plane was supposed to last and hour and a half. We left at 3:30 and did not return until 7, so that is plenty long for me. (Some say they last 7 hours.)
Bought a Citizen watch. We leave here tonight at 7:30 p.m. having docked at 7:30 a.m.
I’ve been trying to upload photos taken here in Alaska for the better part of the last hour. No luck. We’re in the ocean, heading for Icy Strait Point, which we will reach at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow. (That is 5:30 p.m. Quad City time).
So far, I’ve managed to shut my left hand index finger in the rest room door on the airplane flying here (Chicago to Denver; Denver to Vancouver) and sat for the duration with my finger plunged in a glass of ice. It’s a lovely purple color right now. I also think I have pulled something in my back pulling my computer bag with my 900-lb. purse perched atop it. Both of these are “no nos” for the experienced travelers among you, which apparently leaves me out.
We have booked 3 tours off the boat. One will be tomorrow at 4 p.m. when we do the Glacier Bay Flightseeing for 2 hours in a fixed-wing plane flying over Point Adolphus and Icy Strait. Glacier Bay National Park is the destination, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Three point three million acres with the ancestral homeland of the Huna Tingit. I’m afraid you’ll have to wait to see the pictures until I can get home to post them. The Internet here is not great, even though it costs something like $175 for 2 devices per person for the week. (The plane trip is $399 per person, so….)
After Icy Strait, it’s the Hubbard Glacier on Aug. 28 and Juneau on the 29th. We’ll do the Mendenhall Glacier by helicopter and guided walk for 2 and one-quarter hours. ($369 per person).
Following Juneau, on Friday (Aug. 30) we hit Ketchikan and I think we’re doing the historic Ketchikan trolley, although there are so many different options that I now am confused as to what we ARE doing.
I bought a jacket on the ship today, since it is getting quite chilly and my London Fog coat with the metal buttons is not cutting it. The buttons used to amuse Ava and Elise (the granddaughters) for hours, but they set off all the alarms at the metal detectors at the airport and won’t stay closed.
I got an e-mail from Amazon today giving me 5 days to “dispute” some copyright claim for my newest (6th) cat book and it makes no sense at all. I published both the cat books and whatever other book they are talking about, but I am in no position to make phone calls to Amazon and be on hold for hours at a time, so there’s that.
The food, as always, is good, and the ship reminds of the Celebrity Solstice that we took around Australia (this is the Celebrity Eclipse). So far, so good.
In a “breaking news” bulletin from Politico.com, I learned something that should be the last nail in the coffin of the GOP candidates’ race for the Presidency. The one-line bulletin read: “Alaska panel finds Sarah Palin abused power as Governor in firing of Commissioner.” The Commissioner in question in what has been dubbed Troopergate, was Walt Monegan, Public Safety Commissioner, whom Sarah Palin pressured to fire her ex-brother-in-law. When he would not, Palin fired Monegan.
To be fair, the ex-brother-in-law was not a model state trooper by any standards, unless drinking on the job and tasering one’s child is considered model behavior, but pressuring Walt Monegan to fire the ex-brother-in-law crossed the line, says the panel, and appears to have taken place for personal political reasons that were not related to his job performance. There were in-person visits from Todd (“the First Dude”) Palin and e-mail(s) and discussions to and with Monegan, all of them designed to get Walt Monegan to fire the ex-brother-in-law primarily because Governor Palin wanted him fired for her own personal reasons. At least, that is what the independent panel seems to be saying in its decision.
There are several things that this conviction should mean for any thinking voter.
First, Ms. Palin’s much-vaunted Republican credentials as a reformer battling corruption are in disarray. So much for going to Washington or Wasilla to “clean up corruption.” She’s going to end up like Edward Norton in “Fight Club,” fighting herself.
Second, the attacks on Obama saying he had not made “full disclosure” of every facet of his personal background, (such as very casual links to former Weatherman underground member Ayres or the indicted Tony Rezko) are undermined by the guilty verdict, as it appears that there are more skeletons in Palin’s closet than just the pregnancy of her teen-aged daughter.
And thirdly, and most importantly, Troopergate gives us a glimpse into the kind of executive Sarah Palin has been and would be, if elected to an even more consequential office than Governor of Alaska. She is the sort of chief executive who, according to John Bitney, a trusted aide and friend for 30 years who helped her win both the Mayor’s and Governor’s offices, can be capricious. Bitney said, “When she decides ‘you’re done,’ you’re done.” Bitney should know. He worked closely with Palin and was loyal to her, but he was called in and summarily fired because, post-divorce(s), he began dating the ex-wife of a friend of Todd Palin’s.
Said Bitney, in an article reported by Kenneth P. Vogel (“Politico.com,” 9/5/08), “I wanted to stay with the Governor and support the Governor. We’re talking about someone who’s been a friend for 30 years. But I understood and I have no ax to grind over the whole thing. Added Bitney, who, stealing a line from Elaine on the “Seinfeld” TV series said Palin is ‘a bad breaker-upper,” “Palin’s style is more dramatic than the way most executives do it. They bring you in, tell you they’re going to go in another direction and get everyone in the office to sign a card and cut a cake. But that’s just not her style.”
No, it certainly isn’t Ms. Palin’s style, as demonstrated by the guilty verdict in Troopergate and also in assorted other staff dealings.
According to Vogel, when Palin won the Wasilla Mayor’s post over three-time incumbent John Stein in 1996, 5 of 6 department heads had supported her opponent. Only 2 kept their jobs, and one who did, Duane Dvorak, left on his own 8 months later to become Kodiak Island Borough City Planner. Palin required the department heads she inherited from the outgoing Mayor to present her with a letter of resignation, a resume, and a letter explaining why they should be allowed to keep their jobs.
When Dvorak left under his own volition he described the work environment under Palin this way: “After all the excitement, I kind of felt like the ax could fall any time and just never felt like the situation warmed up.”
Not a great work environment, in my professional judgment as former CEO of two small businesses, but consistent with Palin’s later attempt to fire Mary Ellen Emmons, the library director. Ultimately, Emmons—who resisted efforts to purge the library of books Palin found objectionable—retained her position when Palin withdrew Emmons’ letter of termination, but as Palin told the Anchorage Daily News as to why she ultimately withdrew the termination notice after a public uproar: “You know in your heart when someone is supportive of you.” Palin certainly did do a lot of firing “from the heart,” so much so that the Wasilla local paper, the Frontiersman, dubbed the ongoing bloodbath “the Palin ax.”
Sarah Palin’s high-handed firing of those she felt were not supportive of her or those whom, like Police Chief Ira Stambaugh, she felt did not kow-tow enough to her during meetings, brought about a wrongful termination and dismissal lawsuit from the Police Chief. The real issues behind the firing were said to be the Police Chief’s support for a gun ban that the NRA opposed and the issue of bar hours in the town. He and Palin had differing points of view on the two issues, and soon Stambaugh was shoved towards the door.
A long-time supporter of Palin’s, then-Councilman Nick Carney, who owns a garbage removal company in Wasilla, convinced the then-28-year-old to run for Mayor in the first place. He knew Palin because she had played high school basketball on the same team as his daughter. As time went on and Palin’s management style became more apparent, Carney, along with Stein, threatened to lead a recall petition asking for Palin’s removal from office. Confirming Palin’s leadership style in office as a “take-no-prisoners” Bush-like system, Joe Johns characterized Palin on a CNN discussion on Friday night as “a hard-nosed Governor.”
The pick of Palin to be Vice President was always considered a “Hail Mary” pass from Republican Presidential candidate John McCain, facing uphill odds against the most unpopular President in history who has just concluded his 8 years in office by seemingly managing to ruin not only the United States economy, but the global economy (what will he do next?). The unprecedented economic melt-down is on top of the unwinnable Iraq conflict initiated by our invading the wrong country to seek justice after 9/11. We might wish to throw in the loss of our self-esteem abroad under “W”, since we now are a country that practices “extraordinary rendition,” established Guantanamo Bay, and perpetrated Abu Ghraib. With McCain’s 90+% approval rating for all of Bush’s proposed policies, it is fair to portray him as “Bush’s third term,” and do we, as a people, really want that? Do any of us want 4 or 8 more years of Bush’s bewildered and baffled leadership-via-VP?
Palin’s lackluster education, background, experience and, now, her temperament, all point to a woman who is not only unqualified by her relatively limited experience to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency. Now, with the Troopergate guilty verdict, Palin is further defined an individual who likes to throw her political weight around when it suits her purposes, using her clout to influence questions like, “What books should children be allowed to read?” or “How late should bars be allowed to stay open?” or “Should everyday citizens be allowed free access to firearms?” In the White House, those questions would become, “Who should serve on the Supreme Court and influence legal decisions for generations?” and “Should our country be allowed to find cures for diseases like diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease by far-reaching stem-cell research?” and “Is it ‘okay’ to destroy what few areas of natural beauty remain untouched in our country to drill for oil?” Let’s not forget that Palin fought the federal government against naming the Polar Bear an endangered species, because to have done so would have inhibited drilling in her home state of Alaska.
Tuckerman Babcock, mentioned in the Politico.com article by Vogel, was a long-time supporter of Ms. Palin, whose mother is Alaska State Senate President Lyda Green. Babcock was expecting to be rewarded for his loyalty to the woman-who-would-be-VP. That didn’t happen. Alaska State Senate President Green told the “Daily News”, ‘Palin is not prepared to be Governor. How can she be prepared to be Vice President or President?” Journalists from all over the globe have posed this question to me.
That has been the question of the hour ever since McCain threw that Hail Mary pass, and, the more information we gather, such as her latest conviction in Troopergate, simply emphasizes how accurate that assessment by Lyda Green was, then and now.
Bill Maher likened Palin to “Tickle Me Elmo” on his October 10th “Real Time with Bill Maher” show. He actually said, out loud, what many have thought, privately, “Palin doesn’t know anything.” Andrew Halcro on Andrew Halcro.com said, “Walt Monegan was fired because he fought too hard. Governor Palin fired Monegan because she understood too little and wanted a puppet as commissioner. ” He added, “Walt Monegan got fired for all the wrong reasons. Walt Monegan got fired because he had the audacity to tell Governor Palin no, when apparently nobody is allowed to say no.”
This sounds like all too familiar political history;I can only hope that the Troopergate conviction in Alaska will send the “Disastah from Alaska” back to governing that remote state (and staring at Russia out her kitchen window), rather than eyeing the Oval Office.
Sarah Palin lives 40 miles northeast of Anchorage at the western edge of Wasilla. That distance from Washington, D.C., means that she is close to Russia, which the Republicans have suggested makes her more expert about Russia and Putin. Jon Stewart suggested that she also lives close to the North Pole, which might make her an expert on Santa Claus. If this sounds facetious, it is.
Palin was interviewed by Charles Gibson of ABC News on Friday night, and, to his credit, Charlie tried to pin her down on her supposed opposition to “earmarks,” when it has been established that, when she was Mayor of Wasilla, she hired a lobbyist for $30,000 a year to secure just such earmarks.
The much discussed “bridge to nowhere” that Palin claimed to have turned down during her RNC speech, was actually something she favored, at first. Even after she reversed positions, the $223 million given Alaska for the bridge was not returned by the state. Therefore, as Gibson established, citizens in the sparsely inhabited state of Alaska got $231 per person, while Barack Obama’s home state of Illinois received only $22 per person. Gibson also pointed out that Alaska asked for $3.2 million for a study of harbor seals and the mating habits of crabs, which seems to smack of “earmark,” but which Palin defended.
Actor Matt Damon recently said he was quite frightened at the thought of Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the Presidency, since John McCain’s age, alone, means that the oldest nominee in history might well not live through even a four-year term. Here is a woman who has served as the Mayor of a town of 9,000 and has been in office as Governor of the remote state of Alaska for less than 2 years.
Harking back to Hillary Clinton’s battle cry, “Who is ready to be President on Day One?”, it is inconceivable to Matt Damon…(and to me)…that either candidate for President would select as his running mate someone whose entire appeal was that he could help win the race inside the United States. The head honchos this year (McCain and Obama) owe we, the people, the very best this country has, to lead us in case they are taken out by the vagaries of fate. I’m not getting the idea that the Republicans have picked that number two person to run, and that makes me mad and sad. Mad that they would squander our nation’s future on an untested quantity and sad that it’s “politics as usual,” which it certainly appears to be.
The person selected number two on the ticket this year has a better-than-average chance of ascending to the highest office in the land…possibly within the first four years. It is disrespectful to the American people and to the world to pick a running mate based solely on that individual’s ability to help carry a ticket to victory in November. There is a higher responsibility to the nation…and the world…. to pick the very best candidate to go head-to-toe with other nations during these troubled times. The individual selected should be confident and capable of facing down the likes of the leaders of Russia, Korea, China and Iran, should the need arise. Listening to Sarah Palin tell Charles Gibson, “I’m ready. I have the confidence in that readiness,” did not make me feel any more secure. She didn’t look or sound “ready.” Far from it. She looked like a nice-enough lady who likes to hunt moose and have kids and whose entire life experience has better prepared her for those tasks than for leading one of the more complicated nations in the world and guiding the ship of state through troubled waters. There were no concrete plans. There were no specifics. There was just the acknowledgment of all the right-wing beliefs that “the base” so loves, despite the fact that survey after survey shows that women in the United States value the right to choose, regardless of religious preference. Being a life-long member of the NRA will get the NRA vote, no doubt. Will it help curb violence on crowded inner-city streets? Unlikely.
When asked by Gibson if her National Security credentials were up to that task (and at least she was asked), Sarah Palin immediately deflected the question, turning it into something it wasn’t, saying, “But it is about the reform of Washington.” From there, she segued on to her credentials on energy, apparently thinking that this old political ploy of not answering the question at all would go totally unnoticed.
I noticed, Ms. Palin.
I’m pretty sure the rest of those listening did, too.
Would you rather have Senator Joseph Biden, who has extensive National Security experience, negotiating with foreign leaders, or the self-styled “hockey mom” from Alaska, who has absolutely no experience whatsoever in this crucial and sensitive area?
The Republican ads that followed the ABC interview trumpeted: “She stopped the bridge to nowhere.” Welllll, maybe not. And the change mantra? Four more years of Republican leadership dedicated to “a win” in an untenable war, to no choice for American women, to status quo on embryonic stem cell research—none of that equates to “change” for the better.
The “Spin-meisters” afterwards (George Stephanopoulus and company) thought she wasn’t very forthcoming. That’s putting it mildly. They did describe Governor Palin as “doing okay on these answers, not great on these answers.” One expert suggested that the VP be coached a bit more before taking on the hard ones.
My take: she didn’t answer the questions asked at all. She did the typical politician buck-and-wing, and that is sad. I thought the Republican ticket had staked its claim to election on being “different” from the old-style politics of Rove and Bush? There was no difference, tonight, between the Bush campaigns of the past two election cycles and the McCain ticket, this year.
The spin-meisters thought she looked very “scripted.” I thought she looked very out-of-her-element and sounded very much like Bush (again) in 2008.