Friday, May 30, 2008

Vanport City and the Flood of 1948

Sixty years ago the railroad dike broke and flood waters rushed in covering the second largest city in Oregon—as well as a long stretch of low land on the Oregon side of the Columbia River from Portland to Gresham.

Here's a bit of footage taken of the flood waters:

Vanport began as a housing project for the influx of workers coming to Portland to work at the Oregon Shipyards during World War II. The war effort needed lots of workers in round the clock shifts. The population of Vanport grew to almost 40,000 people.

Metro Councilman Ed Washington remembered his life in Vanport as a young black resident in somewhat idyllic terms.

No, other than to say that it was a wonderful place to grow up as a kid. The memories of growing up and living there have never left me. I have friends and we still converse about growing up in Vanport. It was sort of a magic place for kids. It was just different. I think part of it is that we were all thrown together there during this tumultuous time during the Second World War where life was really being lived to it’s fullest. It was thriving. Lots of different people. Woods to play in, sloughs to play in, bikes to ride, skateboards to scooter. Skateboards to make, you know tops to spin, the yo-yos to throw down and caseons to roll down the sidewalk through the wash houses. It was a wonderful place, an ideal place for a kid and it was pretty safe.

After 1945, with the war effort shut down, workers left, and the population dropped to about 19,000. But Vanport was determined to keep its smaller city community life alive. Returning war veterans needed housing for the families they were starting or expanding. It was housing Portland didn't have.

Vanport, however, had nice, compact housing units suitable for young families. What better way to revitalize Vanport and turn it into a thriving community of all classes then to attract young, upwardly mobile families headed by WWII veterans using their GI college benefits?

Thus, Oregon's third major state college center (along with the state university at Eugene and state college at Corvallis) was sited at Vanport (and later became Portland State University). In its first year Vanport Extension Center enrolled over 1,900 students in its college classes. By comparison, the University of Oregon had just under 2,500 students in 1945.

The plan to revitalize Vanport began to work. Life for many of the new Vanport families consisted of a quiet, but hectic life divided between working to support their families, college classes and raising the children who began the Baby Boom. War time residents, without round the clock war work shifts, saw life settling into a more normal family pattern.

Vanport had the further benefit of a racial integration and acceptance superior to that in Portland. Ed Washington describes the difference between life in Vanport and life in Portland:

Well life after the flood was really just a lot of things I just described. Moving around a lot until you could finally find a permanent place. I never really got settled into school again until 1950 when I went to Irvington. You’re on the move for two years and that’s very disrupting. You’re coming to grips with a new neighborhood -- Williams Avenue, which was a predominately Black area, that was between Interstate and MLK, and the Steel Bridge and Fremont. So you know you’re in with a concentration of people, mostly Black, that you didn’t have in Vanport. You had a lot of Black people in Vanport, but we didn’t have the concentration. At least it appeared to be scattered, and that was probably because there were so many other people. But most of the others that lived in that area were Black. Not everybody in that area was Black, but it meant that you had to go to a new school. You had to meet new friends, and it meant that you really left the place that you really grew up. A place that you were very comfortable with, a place that you could get around in, and now you had to be concerned about all the other things that come to [when you] live within the city.

On May 30, 1948, all that Vanport promised ended. Despite the planning, normalizing of work schedules, and influx of upwardly mobile young veterans and their families, the flaw of building on easily flooded land overturned it all.

Some first hand accounts of the flood are here, here and here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Press Bias Against Hillary – Part 3

Even though my political views are in opposition to Senator Hillary Clinton's, it is impossible to ignore the stark unfairness of treatment she continues to receive from the mainstream press.*

One can see the bias directly in the press treatment of Clinton's campaign and indirectly in the lack of negative commentary on Rep. Ron Paul's continuing bid for the Republican nomination.

1. Sen. Clinton's Campaign. The Oregonian's front page treatment of Hillary Clinton's landslide win in West Virginia (140,000 vote, 41% spread) was a little note saying to go to page 11. In comparison, the following day, the Oregonian gave front/top-of-the page coverage to John Edwards' endorsement of Sen. Obama.

More recently there was the Oregonian's front page/color photo treatment of Sen. Clinton's apology for remarks about Robert Kennedy's campaign for president only ending with his assassination in June of 1968.

In comparison, Sen. Obama's April remarks about Pennsylvania voters clinging to their guns, religion and anti-immigrant feelings were never in danger of the same kind of Oregonian front page/color photo treatment even after the story received some coverage in the New York Times.

The Oregonian's dismissive, negative treatment of Sen. Clinton is an example writ small of the broad mainstream press bias against her.

Under the guise of “analysis” Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, PBS, Meet the Press, you name it, are consumed with how hopeless Clinton's bid is, how mean, racist and disgusting her campaign and former President Bill Clinton's remarks are, and how she is damaging the Democratic party.

We keep hearing/reading that Sen. Clinton can't possibly win the nomination without the superdelegates going against the popular vote (oops, scratch that now), the primary delegate count, or cheating by considering Florida and Michigan votes.

How much analysis have you heard that Sen. Obama can't possibly win the nomination without the superdelegates going against the popular vote or denying the legitimacy of the voters in Florida and Michigan?

Since when has the Democratic party or the press held the view that rules that keep votes from counting are more important than votes cast? If it wasn't such a body blow to their principles, it would be funny that the Democrats and the media are standing against everything they have trumpeted for decades—not to mention about the 2000 election.

2. Rep. Ron Paul. When is the last time you heard any analysis, let alone indepth analysis, by mainstream press reporters or commentators on why Rep. Paul needs to drop out of the race because a) he can't possibly win or b) he is hurting the chances of the Republican nominee? Unlike Sen. Obama, Sen. McCain actually does have way over the number of delegates he needs to win the nomination. But, Rep. Paul keeps campaigning--with no negative comment from the press or pundits.

If, Rep. Ron Paul, had posted a 41% victory spread in a primary (or even gotten 41% of the vote anywhere), would it have gotten page 11 treatment? But, that's what Sen. Clinton got.

To all you Clinton supporters out there, welcome to the conservative reality. And Senator Clinton, my hat is off to you for your courage in the face of this massive negative media barrage.

*Previous posts on anti-Hillary bias in the press are here and here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Aging Women Supporters of Hillary Clinton Need to Sit Down and Shut Up (Press Bias – Part 2)

Ah, the amazing irony of unforeseen results. This historic election with its first really electable black and female candidates has not resulted in wonderful idealism.

Instead it has shown the seamy underside of bias that permeates the mainstream press against any candidate or issue that is not in sync with the received view of what is good for the right cause. Even Sen. Hillary Clinton whose political positions are “right” on every issue is still the “wrong” candidate.

Here are some excerpts from the May 25th Meet the Press Roundtable. The opinions are from women on the panel. Two comments (one made on the air and one quoted) are about how unsuitable Hillary is personally and because of who she married and two about how petty and unreasonable her female supporters are:

Maureen Dowd: But the thing is, Hillary hurts feminism when she uses it as opportunism. And she has a history of covering up her own mistakes behind sexism. She did it with health care right after health care didn't pass. She didn't admit that she was abrasive or mismanaged it or blew off good advice or was too secretive. She said that she was a Rorschach test for gender and that many men thought of a female boss they didn't like when they looked at her. And now she's doing the same thing, and it's very--you know, in a way it's the moral equivalent of Sharptonism. It's this victimhood and angry and turning women against men and saying that the men are trying to take it away from us, in the same way she's turning Florida and Michigan and riling up and comparing them to suffragettes and slaves. And it's very damaging to feminism.

. . .

Tim Russert quoting Ruth Marcus who was on the panel: "From a feminist perspective," Clinton, "Clinton's was not a perfect candidacy. Part of this stems from a fact outside Clinton's control, that her route to power was derivative, the Adam's rib outgrowth of her husband's career. Hillary Clinton had been elected to the Senate, twice, in her own right, but the fact that her road to the White House involved standing by her man, no matter how badly he behaved, made her a flawed vessel for the feminist cause.”

. . .

Gwen Ifill: Just something, keep in mind what her audience is at this stage. Her audience, assuming she's trying to get out of this campaign with something intact and with some sort of power base intact, her audience is the truly, deeply angry women out there, who I run into, and I know who you hear from, who say, "How could you do this to us? We"--I, I talk to a woman who said she had planned a dance at an inauguration of the first woman president before she died, and now she'll never be able to do it. They believe that Hillary Clinton is not the beginning of the road, but the end of the road for women in--and--with a shot at the White House.

. . .

Doris Kearns Goodwin: And what you don't want women to take away, instead of seeing her as a champion who actually did some great things for women, see her instead as a victim, it doesn't help the next women coming along. So I just wish those resentments could go on--could go away.

All you aging women out there who support Sen. Clinton need to realize that you chose a flawed candidate who does not deserve to be president and that your anger at her treatment is probably tied to your petty interest in things like inauguration dances. You need to sit down, shut up, forget any resentments and get a life of your own.

[Part 1 of Press Bias Against Hillary Clinton can be seen here.]

Monday, May 26, 2008

Alvin Lick, Franklyn Taylor Jr., Eldred Williams - Sacrifice Remembered

Alvin Lick (1916-1944) - served in the Army in Europe. Killed in action in Belgium on October 29, 1944.

Franklyn "Jack" Seymour Taylor, Jr. (1916-1942) - served in the Navy in the Pacific on a destroyer. Killed in action on November 12, 1942.

Eldred M. Williams (1921-1943) - served in the Army Infantry in the Pacific. Killed in action by sniper fire April 21, 1943 on New Guinea.

Part of the Greatest Generation which by the millions sacrificed deeply, both at home and abroad, to win freedom for their families, their nation and nations and families they never knew.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Oregonians to Reject Clinton as They Rejected RFK 40 Years Ago?

Forty years ago Oregon Democrats picked Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy over New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy in the 1968 Oregon primary. Kennedy was popular among blue collar workers; McCarthy's support came from college students and the more educated classes.

Part of Kennedy's appeal, like Sen. Clinton's, was that he was a gutsy fighter with a famous political name. He never acted Ivy League educated or like a millionaire. He had the common touch.

Hillary Clinton has benefited from the common touch popularity of former President Bill Clinton, but she has underscored that in her comeback bid for the presidential nomination. Fighting on despite continual negative media coverage and negative commentary by political pundits, she is living the working class life of persevering even when continually pushed down.

Hillary's incredible 41% spread in winning West Virginia (67% to Obama's 26%) is striking evidence of her growth as a candidate and the bond she has formed with the working class backbone of the Democratic party.

Oregonian Democrats gave Bobby Kennedy his first political loss, and he didn't have to deal with a continual negative press. Oregon Democrats may be set to again side against a popular New York senator with a magic political name and a special bond with working class Democrats.