Osage American Indian tribe gives full democracy a try

May 23, 2007 16:46 UTC

Hepsi-Barnett.jpgA century after the land on the Osage American Indian reservation was divided up among tribal members, this nation is trying something new: full democracy.

As of March 11, 2006, when the new Osage constitution was ratified, the nation became a fully participatory democracy.

Prior to that, the decision-making process for this nation of some 16,000 was controlled by the holders of the 2,229 plots of land that have made up the Osage reservation in northern Oklahoma since 1907 the Osage call these individual land allotments shares.

Those shares are controlled by heads of families and over the years have been eagerly sought because they control land and mineral rights on the reservation. This part of the country saw an oil boom in the early 20th century and oil is still a big source of income on the reservation.

Those members of the tribe who were not heads of families felt disenfranchised as they were unable to participate in the decision-making process, said Hepsi Barnett (right), chief of staff at the Osage nations executive branch.

Birthday milestone, Tulsa-style

May 22, 2007 22:23 UTC

Birthday3.JPGReuters Correspondent and Route 66 Team member James Kelleher, left, turned 44 years old on Monday, the day the team drove from Oklahoma City to Tulsa. He was in a funk about the milestone the whole day.
To cheer him up, they joined the team’s hosts in Tulsa, Phil and Miranda, spent Monday night at two of the city’s hotspots: McNellie’s and the Soundpony, a tavern conveniently located alongside Cain’s Ballroom, a landmark musical venue in Tulsa.
When the Soundpony’s bartender, right, learned James Birthday2.jpgwas celebrating a birthday (and after he corroborated the claim by scrutinizing James’ Illinois licence), he made James what he claimed was a traditional Soundpony birthday libation: blueberry liqueur served in a hollowed out hotdog.
After donning the protective Soundpony hotdog headgear, James threw back one half of the hollowed-out hotdog. Nick was recording the whole event for posterity, so an anonymous fellow Soundpony patron stepped up to the plate and downed the other half. Both men then ate their hotdogs. 
James lived to blog another day, though he did wake up with what he claimed was a hotdog-induced headache. The anonymous patron, who did not have the benefit of the protective headgear, was not heard from again.
All photos taken in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 21, 2007.

Snapshots from Oklahoma City to Tulsa

May 22, 2007 21:40 UTC

SNAPSHOT.jpgAs we travel through America along the path of old Route 66, theres a lot we see that we dont have time to write about. We thought we could at least share some of what stands out, impresses or amuses us on our journey, so readers can see more than just the blogs we write at the end of each days traveling. Here’s a small selection of shots from our trip from Oklahoma City to Tulsa.

Clockwise from upper left, Bricktown is a revitalized neighborhood of restaurants and bars in downtown Oklahoma City; Hastan Blackshear, 62, has worked at a parking lot in Bricktown for 11 years and witnessed the neighborhoods transformation; the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is run by the National Park Service and David Albert, a 27-year-old from Rhode Island, is one of the employees; Cains Ballroom is a venerable and storied musical venue in Tulsa. First opened in 1924, it has had everyone from Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys to Asleep at the Wheel to the Sex Pistols appear on its stage. Brad Harris, the ballrooms production manager, gave us a late night tour of the place; mementos attached to a fence outside the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, located on the former site Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The April 19, 1995 bomb attack on the building, which killed 168 people, including 19 children, remains one of the worst attacks on U.S. soil; A Tulsa home that our hosts in the city, Phil and Miranda, told us had been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Second half, clockwise from left: Joel and Alfredo enjoying a break outside the Bricktown restaurant where they work;  Betsy McLaughlin and Michael Moser were our lunch servers at the Bricktown Brewery. The place is proud of its ribs, but Betsy and Michael steered us toward the chicken pot pie and the chicken fried steak. We werent disappointed. James had the brewerys red brick ale with his meal; A shot of one end of the outdoor memorial, a haunting tribute to the victims that draws 300,000 visitors a year, according to the National Park service; A public art project in downtown Oklahoma City that celebrates the buffalo, which once roamed wild here; Tulsa is considered one of Oklahoma’s more progressive and liberal places. But its still in the Bible Belt.

Oklahoma Baptist leader confident of victory in latest abortion battle

May 22, 2007 15:09 UTC

Jordan.JPGAlmost ever since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down many individual state laws restricting abortion in 1973, in the Roe v. Wade case, Anthony Jordan says he has been fighting to have abortion on-demand overturned because it goes against his religious beliefs.

Now he says the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma – of which he is the leader – is close to scoring a major victory in that battle with a bill passed in the Oklahoma Senate last week that would restrict state funding for abortions.

Im confident that even if (Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry) vetoes this legislation that we have enough votes in the Senate to override it, Jordan said (pictured left). Listen to his expectation for the legislation here

Moore Baptists say Christian voices still not loud enough in U.S. politics

May 22, 2007 14:55 UTC

Clarkson5.jpgMuch has been made of the fact that one of President George W. Bushs core constituencies in his election in 2000 and re-election in 2004 was the countrys Christian conservatives.

This group is seen as a key group for Republicans running for office in many states, particularly in the southern United States. And any potential Republican presidential nominee is expected to have to woo the Christian Right ahead of the U.S. presidential elections in 2008.

But members of the congregation here at the enormous First Baptist Church in Moore say that they feel Christian conservatives have been excluded too much from national debates on key issues such as abortion and gay rights and encroaching secularism in American society.

Hollywood vs world movies

May 22, 2007 11:54 UTC

    One great thing about the Cannes film festival is watching films made around the world.
 French humorists Omar and Fred at Cannes
    Later this week, Cannes rolls out the red carpet for Hollywood flick, “Ocean’s Thirteen.” The movie, about a group of con artists robbing a Las Vegas casino, is fast-paced, features expensive sets and has global stars like Brad Pitt and George Clooney. There is little doubt it will do huge numbers at box offices, but does that make it good?
    Here at Cannes, Mexico’s “Stellet Licht” is exactly the opposite of “Ocean’s” with a slow tale of a Mennonite farmer in an adulterous affair, and it relies on few words to evoke complicated emotions. French musical “Les Chansons d’Amour” tells of a young man whose menage a trois ends disastrously but causes him to grow as a man.
    It is unlikely “Stellet Licht” or “Chansons d’Amour” will reach theaters in many other countries. If they do, it is just as unlikely they will play outside small, arthouse cinemas. Their box office figures will pale next to “Ocean’s.” But does the fact few people see them make them bad movies?
    In 2006, all of the top 20 films were released by a major Hollywood studio. But was “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” which was 2006′s No. 1 box office draw with more than $1 billion in global ticket sales, good? Most critics did not think so. Some fans did; others did not.
    Moviegoing is subjective. What one person likes, their best friend may hate. Not all box office hits are good. Not all small, arthouse films are bad. The opposite is just as true.
    So, this week when the third “Pirates” film opens in theaters, think for a moment. Even though your best friend may be going, do you want to? There may be some foreign language flick playing down the street that has no queue outside, and it may be far more thought-provoking and entertaining. Or, maybe not. That would be up to you to decide.

Mulling the presidential candidates at Oklahoma Church

May 22, 2007 00:34 UTC

Its still almost a year and a half to the next U.S. presidential election in November 2008, but the campaigning has already been going on for months.

The field of Republicans and Democrats seeking their partys nomination is broad, but Christian conservatives at the First Baptist Church in Moore, Oklahoma, say so far few of the potential nominees have impressed them.

This is a heavily Republican state, so the names mentioned most as potential candidates among the congregation here were Repulicans.

Five-hour stopover and warm welcome at Oklahoma megachurch

May 21, 2007 21:35 UTC

church3.jpgOn Sunday, we visited First Baptist Church in Moore, Oklahoma. Moore, located a few miles south of Oklahoma City, is perhaps best known for its tornadoes; indeed, the one that ripped through here on May 3, 1999, was one of the strongest ever recorded and was part of a system twisters that killed 40 people in central Oklahoma.

First Baptist is a megachurch. The congregation is counted in the thousands and the 250,000-square-foot church building itself, located on 75 acres, includes a spectacular two-story sanctuary as well as gymnasium with two basketball courts and an events annex that can seat 1,000.  

Walking around the facility, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that Moore is a wealthy suburban enclave. Yet the median family income here was about $47,000  in 2000 , according to the U.S. Census, below the national median of $50,046. This is not Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, the affluent home of Rick Warren, the author of “The Purpose Driven Life.”

Undecided in Oklahoma City, but an interest in Sen. Brownback

May 21, 2007 21:07 UTC

loafman_web.JPGA key part of First Baptist’s community outreach program is its weeknight English as a Second Language program and its Sunday Bible study class for Spanish speakers. Doug Loafman, 49, and his wife, Lucinda (left), 48, public school teachers, are the volunteer coordinators for both.
The Loafman’s joined First Baptist when they moved to Oklahoma City from Texas a few years back. Like most of their fellow congregants at First Baptist, the Loafmans lean heavily toward the Republican Party. They put a high value on what they call “character” — something they say they see in President George W. Bush but see less of in the current crop of presidential candidates, both Democrat and Republican.
The notable exception? The couple expressed an interest in Senator Sam Brownback, a longshot Republican candidate from Kansas, who opposes abortion and same-sex marriages and said, when announcing his candidacy earlier this year, that “we need to embrace our nation’s motto, ‘In God we trust,’ and not be ashamed of it.”
As a result of the work they do with non-natives, the Loafman’s are supporter of immigrant rights.  “We’re more liberal on the immigration issue. We know them as people and they’re honest people. Yes, many of them are illegal. But we have to find a way to make them legal … We’re 12 million people too late.”
According to the Baptist Convention of Oklahoma, Hispanics are the fastest-growing group in the church.

Church goers: Bush’s ‘heart in the right place’

May 21, 2007 20:45 UTC

Clarkson3.jpgPresident George W. Bush’s popularity ratings among voters are languishing at low levels nationwide, but in a series of interviews, people from large congregation and staff of the First Baptist Church in this southern neighbourhood of Oklahoma City said that they think the current president is doing what he believes is right, as Pastor Kevin Clarkson put it.

For the members of this Baptist Church – in the heart of the U.S. Bible Belt – Bushs pronounced faith is what matters. Some of the memberHarve-Allen.jpgs of this church we talked to say they are guided more by President Bushs faith than his political affiliation.

Kathy Metcalf, a retired congregation member, said “hes a praying president and that hes seeking Gods will. And its a gigantic responsibility and a burden on his shoulders.”