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Dave Oliveria: Idaho ignores racist image, ex-reporter writes

Sun., Feb. 16, 2014

For you newbies, former Spokesman-Review colleague Bill Morlin has written a primer on four decades of Aryan Nations activity in North Idaho.

In “Some say potato, most say Aryan Nations” for the Blue Review at Boise State University, Morlin details the impact of supremacist Richard Butler, from his arrival from California in 1973 to the 2000 civil trial that bankrupted his Aryan Nations. Writes Morlin: “Butler didn’t move to Idaho to quietly retire, but as a racist-activist, living in the public limelight and using it to attract followers. To some extent, he met his retirement goals.”

Morlin notes that Idaho spends $14 million per year to promote its potatoes. But nary a dime to combat the damage to its image caused by 40 years of activity by high-profile racists. That job has been left to volunteer organizations like the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations.

Concludes Morlin: “The state’s neo-Nazi image lingers, untouched by a counter-attack marketing campaign or even a public discussion of the problem. No wonder some people can still hear Richard Butler shouting, ‘Heil, victory!’ ” Bingo.

Remembering Wilma

A Facebook photo of the old Wilma Theater in downtown Coeur d’Alene triggered a discussion on my Huckleberries Online blog. One commenter remembered a typical Saturday night as a high-schooler in the 1970s: “Pooling money for gas, burger & fries (with dip) at the Topper on Sherman, movie at the Wilma, then cruise Sherman for a couple hours keeping tabs on who’s got a kegger going out at Fernan or down on the Dike Road. Ah, those were the days! Summer switched from the Wilma to the Showboat Drive-In Theater for the movie of choice.” The Wilma was closed in the late 1980s and left to rot. Heavy snow in December 1996 collapsed the roof and led to the building’s demolition. Grass will continue to cover the lot until a developer decides it’s the proper spot for another downtown high-rise.


Poet’s Corner: “Athletes marching, / flags unfurling, / thrilling action – / also … curling.” – The Bard of Sherman Avenue (“Winter Olympics”) … Bonus Poet’s Corner: “Goodbye to Shirley and to Sid, / we thank them for the good they did / by bringing us what’s rare and dear: / the gift of laughter and good cheer” – The Bard of Sherman Avenue (“Shirley & Sid”) … According to Simple Insights, Idahoans are bad tippers (11.44 percent), but not as bad as New Yorkers (11.3 percent). Meanwhile, Montanans (16.8 percent) and Wyoming residents (16.15 percent) lead the nation in tipping. Washington residents aren’t bad tippers either, at 14.08 percent … Former Coeur d’Alene School Board Chairman Tom Hamilton is getting rave reviews for a recent speech about bullying at the Kootenai County Republican Women luncheon. I’d be more impressed if he hadn’t called me “Doofus” in Facebook comments a week earlier … Blog Poll: 59 percent of Huckleberries Online readers say they won’t vote for a legislative incumbent who supports a bill to allow guns on campus … Seems like only yesterday that state Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, created a buzz by introducing a bill that would have required Idaho students to read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” But it was actually a year ago.

Parting shot

Jeff Ward, president of the Kootenai County Reagan Republicans, wrapped up one vote while announcing his candidacy for Rep. Frank Henderson’s House District 3 seat Thursday. Afterward, his wife, Gloria, Facebooked: “Just listened to an incredible speech from my husband announcing he is running for state representative in the 3rd legislative district. I am THE proudest wife today! Go get ’em honey!!!” Sounds as though his wife favors the move.

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