The Billings Outpost

Strange will be missed

Aron Strange (Feb. 2, 1947, to April 21, 2013), who passed away April 27, 2013, was a leading musician in the Montana Old Time Fiddlers Association, District Four, since the late ’70s.

He was part of the formation of the Yellowstone Bluegrass Organization at its beginning. Aron founded the Musicians Rendezvous in 1990 at Itch Kep Pe Park at Columbus, Montana, on the banks of the Yellowstone.

Aron was a favorite bass player at Doc Ellison’s Picknic and Jam Session the first week in August and then the next week at Itch Kep Pe Park.

Aron was a fine guitar player and singer. And his string bass playing was as good as you could find in the bluegrass pickin’ circles.

With his signature hat, “at times hung on the bass,” and a glance you knew there was some fine music going on there.

Join us for a celebration of Aron’s life Aug. 10 at Itch Kep Pe Park.

James O. Southworth


Last Updated on Thursday, 09 May 2013 00:52

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Improve safety

Editor of The Billings Outpost David Crisp wrote an important editorial in the May 2 edition. Crisp wrote about the attempted gun safety law that could not pass in the U.S. Senate, despite polls showing broad citizen support for background checks, even in Montana.

Congresspersons shook in their boots. No matter how needed, no matter the Newtown mourning parents, the Senate couldn’t pass even a background check measure!

The Second Amendment appears to have become not only sacrosanct, but also carved in stone tablets. It is like a new religion. Time and knowledge change many things (technology, medicine, transportation), but not the Second Amendment. It remains the same: in the hands of a not-well-regulated militia, whatever that is in the 21st century.

Crisp sharply pointed out that “Second Amendment worshipers imagine that the founders would have unhesitatingly ascribed constitutional protection to the array of weapons available today.” That the founding fathers, or any of us, could make such an illogical leap is wishful thinking on the part of gun nuts and the arms industry.

We must keep trying to find ways to keep our children safer. Surely measures to keep guns out of the wrong hands is one common sense way to improve safety.

Joan Hurdle


Last Updated on Thursday, 09 May 2013 00:52

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Change gridlock

Sen. Max Baucus (D.-Mont.) is a decent, honorable man. However, over time he has succumbed to using money - instead of ideas - to win elections. Money is important, but not as important as “doing the right thing.” You don’t need PAC or corporate money to tell you the right thing to do.

It’s only a matter of time until a politician who buys elections trades the tedious job of asking for money into accepting a large donation from a PAC or lobbyist. The check is always accompanied with the usual boast, “This won’t influence how I vote.”

The PAC’s and lobbyists, for the moment, suppress their laughter.

If Montana wants to change the gridlock and the corrupt PAC and lobbyist culture in Washington, we need to elect in both parties middle-of-the road representatives who don’t rely on money to win elections.

If you’re fed up with Washington and take the time to look, those kinds of politicians are there. But they don’t look or act like the politicians you’re used to.

Sam Rankin


Last Updated on Thursday, 09 May 2013 00:51

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Welcome home

To our Yellowstone County state representatives and senators - welcome home!

I’d like to thank you for serving us in Helena. I know you took valuable time away from your family, business, children’s basketball games, PTA meetings, etc. Not all of you agreed on every issue nor should you have. We are all different people and you did your job to represent us. From my perspective, you did well.

James E. Reno

Yellowstone County commissioner

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 May 2013 00:50

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What Christian values?

The lives of many of our fellow Montanans will end unnecessarily before their time if the plans of some Republican Legislators are successful in killing Medicaid expansion. Best estimates put the number of dead at 300 per year.

Have these elected Republicans forgotten doctors and hospitals do save lives? No, they see the facts, but their callous disregard for the lives of those who cannot afford health insurance is breathtaking.

The governor wants to get health insurance to people who can’t afford it. Most of the cost will be paid by the return of our taxes we sent to Washington. Hundreds of high paid jobs would be created as well.

Sen. Jason Priest of Red Lodge says of the governor, “He wants to grow government.” A good place to cut government is for Sen. Priest, and some of his colleagues, to give up their tax payer-funded health insurance. Where are the Montana Christian values these Republicans told us about when they were running to lead the government they seem to so hate?

Mike Penfold


Last Updated on Thursday, 04 April 2013 17:13

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Women’s prison problems

Don’t be fooled by the good press you read. Or write. The Montana Women’s Prison is a rotten apple dipped in gold paint.

The population of prisoners is NOT down 25 percent as reported in the news media. Department of Corrections apparently counts differently from regular people. Their method of counting amounts to hiding the true recidivism rate.

Programming is ineffective. Kim Gillan now has another grant. Her last grant, “New Path/New Life,” was a bust. Maybe this one will have better results. Nevertheless, grant money is flowing into Montana Women’s Prison from many sources.

The programs funded by the grant monies are ridiculous and ineffective. For example, women are not treated equal to men. CP&R is for male sex offenders and Tamar is for sexually abused women. However, staff commonly uses these two obviously different programs for all the inmates. And participating in the programs is required for release.

In Tamar, women learn coping skills like “take a bubble bath, walk in the park, drink hot cocoa with whipped cream, and light candles.” None applies, obviously.

All this affects the recidivism rate Gillan is chasing. She should spend more time helping inmates be protected from felony crimes and victimization by inmates and, unfortunately, staff as well.

The good she hopes to accomplish is overshadowed by targeting, harassment, bullying and gender/sexual orientation discrimination.

Big Jay was 100 percent on-target last year. He highlighted the abuse. Eventually Manny Zuniga was removed from MWP. However, media contact was punished by warden action. Really good people do work here, but are overshadowed by a few scumbags. Such scumbags should be the subject of an inquiry by a federal grand jury.

An emerging scandal is drug smuggling into MWP. Inmates, highly placed in the therapeutic community, have been smuggling dope via visiting and the dog yard. Of the many involved, one committed felony forgery last year on MWP computers. She was never charged.

I doubt MWP will do much about the alleged felony forgery – the prison covers everything up. The dogs are well-attended to, but the rest means nothing. If it did, this letter wouldn’t be necessary.

May Simmons


Last Updated on Thursday, 04 April 2013 17:12

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