Why I support Barack Obama: Part Two

O.K. I know it's been awhile. But Hillary's grandstanding in Florida has inspired me to post again: Apparently Hillary has a big lead in both NY and Cali going into the February 5th "National Primary." How can the Democrats be so stupid? The woman is NOT electable. But here's why I think Obama would actually make a good President:

When I support a person for President, I look at several factors. I want someone who shares my political beliefs, as well as the ability to put those beliefs into action. Now, on the basis of the first part, I want there to be a Democratic President. The people who say there's no difference between the parties are on crack. If you support diplomacy in international relations, economic fairness, gay rights, environmental protections, a woman's right to choose, and other liberal stances, you need to vote for a Democrat. Not a Green or other 3rd party candidate with no chance of winning (For the record, I support many of the goals of the Green activists, but I think they would be better off working within the Democratic party) But it isn't enough that the President is Democrat, s/he needs to have a strong commitment to liberal values. Hillary does not. She supported the Iraq War when it was popular, then changed her tune when it was discovered that the "Mission" wasn't "Accomplished" so easily. She is a complete political chameleon. I believe that Obama, who opposed the Iraq War before opposing the Iraq War was cool, is much less so.

Which brings me to my second point: character. I know this is a big Republican talking point, but there are many people with character on both sides of the aisle, and many people without character on both sides. I am now convinced that Hillary completely lacks character. My mother recently received an e-mail stating that Obama, due to some Islamic influence in his background (his stepfather is Indonesian), is like the Manchurian Candidate, who will sell out the US and Israel. It is clear that this was a "Jew letter" that she got. Chances are, there were "Christian letters", "gay letters", etc. (a gay friend of mine thinks Hillary would be so much better for gay rights, why, i don't know). Now, it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to realize that this letter is B.S (to her credit, my mother realized this at once) Obama had been elected Senator from Illinois, a state with a very large Jewish population. It is clear that if he had extremist Muslim leanings, it would have come out during that campaign. This is nothing but a smear campaign by the Clintons, who have apparently stooped to the level of the late Lee Atwater. (Remember Willie Horton? This is on that level) I find these attempts at emotional manipulation to be offensive in the extreme. I'll spare you the suspense: The next President, no matter who he (or she) is, will say that Israel deserves our support as an ally, but peace will only come via a two-state solution. It is the view of every mainstream Presidential candidate, my own view, and the view of the majority of the U.S. and Israeli populations (not to mention the view of every recent Israeli prime minister.) Hillary was also surely behind the recent rehashing of Obama's adolescent drug use. This is a complete non-issue, but the Clinton people had to arrange for this to be brought up, anyway. Obama admitted that he had used drugs (mostly pot, a drug that probably isn't even as bad as alcohol) as a kid, but hasn't in a long time, and is thankful that he found a better path. IMO, this shows alot more character than Bill Clinton's "I didn't inhale" bullshit, or Bush's vague answer. Obama trusts the American people to understand that this ancient history is not an issue.

Thirdly, a President needs to be able to get his plan enacted. It is better for the President to be a "big picture" guy, and leave the details to his appointees (and to be smart enough to appoint competent people, not failed horse judges as FEMA heads, ala Bush), and even to the civil servants below the appointees. It is thought that Jimmy Carter was a less effective President than he could have been becuase he had trouble delegating responsibility. This is why the fact that Obama has not served as governor or mayor is not so relevant (Governors and mayors tend to do less delegating; Carter apparently managed to get away with non-delegation as Governor of Georgia) But a President needs to have the charisma to inspire people to follow his "big picture" path. Obama does have this charisma, as anyone who has heard one of his speeches can attest. Hillary does not, as she inspires disgust in too many people.

So that, in a nutshell, is why I support Obama for President of the United States in 2008. I hope that all of you out there, who support progressive politics, will as well.

NOTE: None of this is intended to be an endorsement of the Republican candidate should Hillary get the Democratic nomination. I realize that I was fairly harsh on her, but I still think she would be better than either McCain, Romney, or (heaven help us) Huckabee.
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Why I Support Barack Obama

So, apparently, Hillary has narrowly edged out Obama in today's New Hampshire primary. With a whole batch of primaries coming up, including Super Tuesday, now is a good time to state that after months of indecision, I have decided to support Obama. Here's why:

1. Electability. I want the next President to be a Democrat. Pure and simple. If you are at all liberal-leaning, this election is extremely important, and it is important to support a Democrat. Take the Supreme Court, for instance. Read The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin. The book will open your eyes to the power of the Radical Right when a Republican is in office. Remember Harriet Miers, Bush's original appointment to fill O'Connor's seat? She was rejected, not because she was never a judge, and was one of Bush's cronies, but because Bush's conservative buddies thought she was too liberal (and she is actually very conservative) Gone are the days when a Republican president will accidentally appoint a liberal to the Court (like Eisenhower's selection of Earl Warren or Bush Sr.'s nomination of David Souter). In the future, the prospective judicial candidates will have their records reviewed with a fine tooth comb; Bush Jr. knew what he was doing with Roberts and Alito. And this is of concern because it is likely that the next three justices to retire will be Stevens, Ginsburg, and Souter, three of the last four liberals. (Stevens is pushing 90). And it's not just abortion. I actually have fairly moderate views on that topic. But the Supreme Court produces opinions that have effects on every area of American life, from civil rights to gay rights, to the environment, to church-state separation. And the Supreme Court is just one area in which a Republican has the power to inflict lasting damage. Do we want 4 more years of antagonizing foreign countries, of global warming denial, of refusal to do anything about health care in America?

Having said this, I want to argue that, at this point, the Democratic nomination will likely go to either Obama or Hillary. In the last few months, I have met two people who told me they would leave the country if Hillary became President. I have not met anyone who felt the same way about Obama. In addition, I have met many others who can't stand the former First Lady, although emigration would not be in their plans if she got elected. These are not staunch Republicans, many even tend to lean Democrat. I have to assume that these folks represent millions of politically moderate Americans who just have a personal repulsion to Mrs. Clinton. Now, I don't worry that these people will actually leave the country if Hillary got elected, but I can count on them voting for whoever the GOP eventually nominates, even if it's a far right guy like Huckabee. (McCain wouldn't be quite as bad, but I suspect that any GOP nominee will be beholden to the far right, despite any earlier moderation). I don't know why Hillary inspires such visceral hatred, but she does. Let's nominate someone who doesn't inspire this hatred. Furthermore, Obama has the potential to rally a demographic that leans very Democratic, but often produces low turnout. I am referring to younger voters, between 18 and 30 years old. There is so much excitement among the college and recent graduate crowd for Barack's candidacy, that he may just be the candidate to get these kids to put down their X-Box controllers and go down to the polls.

Well, that's all for now. Next time i will discuss why i think Obama is not just more electable, but actually might make a decent President.

The ABQ Police: Interesting Priorities

Well, not a big surprise two people were killed in a DWI accident on New Years Eve. DWI is a big problem in New Mexico, as it is nationally, especially on New Year's Eve. The state has, from what I can tell, a fairly high rate of alcoholism, and fairly poor public transit (although, in Albuquerque, things are getting better, thanks to a few visionaries on the city council). My days as a public defender taught me that the DWI laws can be very oppressive (people have been arrested and convicted for sleeping it off in their cars!), but DWI is something that must be dealt with, both by the criminal justice system, and by those with the power to encourage alternatives.

Which is why I was irritated this past New Year's. I made a conscious decision not to drive. I do like to indulge on the holiday, as do most of us. And, I did find myself, at around 2 am on Jan. 1, while not puking or disoriented, but in a state in which I wouldn't be doing anyone any favors by driving. Good thing I had decided that evening to visit some friends who lived a couple of blocks away. So, I just walked home. And who did I meet on the way back, but our friends, the Albuquerque police force. A cop car pulled up behind me, and the cop got out and asked me where I was going, and where I was coming from. I told him that I was headed home, just a couple of blocks away. He continues to question me about where I was coming from. Finally, another cop pulled up behind him, and (I'm guessing) convinced him to let me go, and I continued on my way.

Now, what is going on in America? Are we turning into a police state? Since when does walking down the street constitute "reasonable suspicion," which the US Constitution requires of police officers if they are to stop someone? And this was a stop. A reasonable person in my position would not have felt free to keep going. Now this was just a momentary annoyance, but I suspect that if I were Mexican or Navajo it would have been much worse. I may have been arrested. this causeless arrest would have been completely illegal, and anything they found on me (I was clean, anyway) would have been thrown out by all but the most brain-dead judges. But, i probably would have sat in jail until I could bond out, or until the courts got around to my case. The only way that this stop would even be remotely proper would be if the cops had gotten a call that a person with my description had just been involved with a crime. But I suspect that this wasn't the case, the questions asked were too general.

I don't mean to pick on Albuquerque. It happened to me here, but the same thing happens to people all over the country, and if you are a minority in a predominantly white neighborhood after 5 p.m., it is very likely. When I was a grad student in St. Louis, I lived with two south asian students in an apartment near Washington University, at the edge of St. Louis proper. One night, they went to a movie. For some reason I didn't go with them. The movie theatre was just over the line in Clayton, one of the fancier suburbs, and they walked back. When they came back, they told me that while they were walking back a cop pulled up next to them, then sped up, and stopped an African American who was ahead of them. They started harassing him with all sorts of questions. My friends didn't know how the situation ended, but I can just imagine the cops saying "It's O.K., they're not black, they're Indian, there's a black man up ahead, let's stop him." Maybe I should be happy that the ABQ cops stop white boys as well. Equal opportunity police harassment. Still, don't the cops have more important things to worry about?

Which brings me to the point I was making at the beginning of my post. The DWI fatality occurred at around the same time as my stop, and not very far away. I have to imagine that these cops were stopping many pedestrians that night. Perhaps if the cops weren't so concerned with some guy who just wanted to get home and get some sleep, they might have noticed a car being driven so erratically (which was what the eyewitnesses to the DWI fatality have said) that the driver was obviously drunk. Perhaps two people would be alive today. In any case, is it really in society's best interest for the cops to worry about someone walking home on the biggest DWI night of the year? Is this the way to encourage people to stay out of their cars if they plan to drink?

Happy Saturnalia: Earth's axial tilt is the reason for the season.

There was a very interesting article in that bastion of conservatism, the Wall Street Journal, of all places. Growing up Jewish, I always felt left out at Christmastime. This is not due to typical American materialism; we did get Hannukah presents. It has more to do with the fact that Christmas was a time of great joy, while the Jewish holidays tend to be very somber, from my perspective, anyway. (Hanukah, while joyous, is a very minor holiday. You light a couple of candles, and give presents to the kids, and that's it.) Our major holidays all tended to involve some sort of self-sacrifice for its own sake, something I do not believe in. Sacrifice for one's country, sacrifice for our fellow man, yes, very good. Sacrifice, just because, not so much. Jewish organizations waste money on think tanks trying to figure out why American Jewish youth are alienated from Judaism. i can save the UJA millions. It can be summed up in 7 words: "They get Christmas, we get Yom Kippur." It's not only the fact that Jewish holidays are so somber, it's that they happen at the wrong time. There are two main Jewish "holiday seasons." The first is the Jewish New Year/Yom Kippur, a time of intense prayer and fasting in the fall. The next is Passover, a holiday requiring intense preparation (you're practically supposed to put a blowtorch to your kitchen; I'm exaggerating, but only a little) in the Spring. In most of the continental US, the Spring and Fall are the most pleasant times of year, weather wise. If I have any free time at that time of the year, I'd rather go mountain biking or watch the balloons, than deal with those holidays. If I believed that the Good Lord would get unhappy if I didn't observe the holidays, that would be one thing, but I don't believe that. Winter, when its freezing outside, even here, and it gets dark at 4:30 pm, that's when you need a major holiday. The Summer, also, with its stifling heat, calls for a holiday, but fortunately my country had the foresight to declare its independence in summer.
What irritated me the most was that I found that Jews seem to define themselves, in part, by not celebrating Christmas. I used to work with many South Asians, some Hindus, some Muslims, and they all seemed to celebrate Christmas in some secular fashion. What would the harm be for Jews to do the same? That is where the WSJ article comes in: It is human nature to want to feast, get drunk, sing songs, and generally enjoy each other's company during the darkest time of year. It makes sense. i know many people say, "Jesus is the reason for the season," and for devout Christians, that may be true. however, the idea of a festival in winter predates Jesus, and has probably existed as long as there have been human beings living outside of the tropics. It's that whole axial tilt thing.
As for myself, I am trying to enjoy myself this time of year. I probably wouldn't go visit my family in NY, even if they celebrated christmas, having just been back for thanksgiving, but I'll go over to a co-worker's house tomorrow. i even baked a cake for the occasion. I'll visit people who are nominally Catholic, the way I'm nominally Jewish, but I suspect that it will just be your ordinary get-together, without much religion. it would be really cool if the Jewish community would embrace a secular Christmas. Don't call it Christmas, if the term Christ Mass offends you, but call it Saturnalia (not really idolatry, cause no one actually worships Saturn anymore), call it Festivus , call it an exaggerated, belated Hannukah for all I care, but this is the season to celebrate. And, don't get too pissed off when your children aren't too excited about the major Jewish holidays. There is much in Judaism that agrees with human nature. The nature and timing of the major holidays does not. Perhaps the Reform movement could consider celebrating Passover in December...
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    hopeful hopeful

On Facebook and Carpe Diem

One might womder what those two terms are doing in the same title. After all, to carpe diem is to "seize the day" in Latin, that is, to live life to the fullest, and don't waste time, etc. On the other hand, Facebook is America's (or, at least, young, educated, America's) current favorite way of wasting time.

I had a carpe diem moment last week. I searched my undergraduate class and the class behind me on Facebook, and i noticed that some more people had joined, including a friend from my freshman entry, or dorm. Now, we didn't have the most close knit entry, the fact that four kids (out of 20!) from the entry transferred to other schools for sophomore year should tell you something, but I did remember this particular guy, N.F., fairly well, because we were in some classes together, and shared an interest in environmental science.

So, I "friended" N.F., or asked him to list me as a friend on facebook, which he did. I was then able to see his page (he either wasn't on the Williams alumni network or he had a "friends only" privacy policy) I noticed that he was in a group dedicated to the memory of someone else I had remembered from school. That was the "carpe diem" moment. the group was dedicated to the memory of N.G., one of the first people I met at school who wasn't in my entry. For a short period of time, I was on the ultimate frisbee team, called WUFO (Williams Ultimate Frisbee Organization) and N.G. was very much involved with that. N.G. was also involved with the Environmental Studies department, so I knew him from there, as well (for some reason, there was always a large cross-over between "crunchy granola" types and ultimate frisbee.)

N.G. was a guy, from the little I remember, who was always full of life. The news of his death (in a motorcycle accident in Indonesia, where he was doing field work for his Ph. D. dissertation.) came as a total shock. I guess i would have been more shocked had it been due to natural causes, as has happened to at least one of my classmates, even at this early date, but it just tells you something. The news of the accident affected me more than I had expected. I hadn't spoken to N.G. for over 10 years, so I didn't feel a strong personal loss. I felt bad for his family and friends, of course, and I remembered random things about him, like the time I made fun of him for wearing a "skirt" (in retrospect, it was probably really a pair of shorts that had seen better days) to ultimate practice, and he made some sort of humorous remark that he was getting in touch with his feminine side.

I also thought about what he was doing at the time of his death. he was following his dream of scholarship combined with adventure, two things that I value very highly, as well. Some, of a more cautious bent, would say that this just goes to show you, you have to be careful, and you should just play it safe. Perhaps, N.G. could have prevented his death, but we have little knowledge of the details, so we'll never know, for instance, if he had been wearing a helmet. Some, like some of my relatives and close family friends, would probably say he had been taking too much of a risk by going to a remote part of Indonesia in the first place. However, I would have to point out, that from the pictures i saw on a memorial flixter site, I'd say that this guy managed to cram more life into 33 (?) years than most of us could, even if we had 330, and his spirit of adventure was a big part of that. The thing to remember is that his death was tragic, but his life most certainly was not, despite its short length. In 50-60 years, barring some major medical breakthrough, the alumni review class profiles of his class and mine will be filled with stories of death and decrepitude. (Just as the profiles for the classes of 1937-1947 are today) How many of us, at our 50th reunions or later, will be able to say that we lived to the fullest. Take precautions, kids, wear a helmet if you ride a motorbike, wear a condom if you have sex before marriage, wear waterproof clothing if you go hiking, but don't wrap yourself in cellophane.

I guess my other point is that Facebook is more than just a procrastination tool. I would have completely lost track of both N.F. and N.G. if I hadn't stumbled on N.F.'s page. Technology has been known to separate people, to break up communities. It's good to know that technology can help preserve communities, as well.
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    contemplative contemplative

There's more than one way to destroy innocence.

In the decision of Lawrence v. Texas , the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Texas' anti-sodomy law. Predictably, Justice Antonin Scalia dissented. As part of his dissent, he provided a laundry list of other sexual practices, including pedophilia, that were in danger of being legalized as a result of the majority decision (ah, the old slippery slope argument). Well, you want to know something, Justice Scalia? If you can't tell the difference between consensual adult homosexual sex and pedophilia, I wouldn't want you near my kids, if I had any.

Why do I bring up this 2003 decision now? Because I think our society is forgetting something about childhood. Pedophilia is not wrong because of some fundie "morality" that frowns on everything other than married heterosexual missionary position sex (which is how the fundies justify homophobia). Pedophilia is wrong because of the importance of letting kids be kids, until their physical, emotional, and intellectual growth allows them to become adults. We are forgetting this, which is a pity, because there are so many ways, other than sex, in which America is corrupting kids.

A few years ago, my mother, in an attempt to promote Orthodox Judaism to me (she isn't Orthodox, just an avid admirer of them except, of course, in their attitudes to her own demographic) compared two of my teenaged cousins. One came from the Orthodox part of the family, and went to a religious day school. Because the school covered both religious and secular subjects, the school day was much longer than it is in public school, and therefore, this cousin was up until 2 am on a regular basis, studying for the next day. My mother thought this religious teen's life was so superior to that of this other cousin, from a secular home, who got body piercings, etc. My feeling is, that these are two sides of the same coin, children being pressured by parents and teachers, on one hand, or by a peer group on the other, to grow up too fast. I would venture to say that the Orthodox cousin lost her innocence as surely as the secular one. yes, it kept the Orthodox girl "out of trouble" as it were, to study until 2 every morning. It also may have kept her "out of normal development" in the non-intellectual areas of her life. if she had been a boy, and she does have two little brothers, it might have kept him "out of adult sized clothing", as well. (I have no idea if lack of sleep stunts your growth; it may be an old wives' tale; but it can't be healthy for a kid). Why don't we repeal those child labor laws while we're at it, I'm sure child labor kept kids out of trouble.

I'm not trying to knock the Orthodox Jews, because I see this pattern growing in the Christian (and Muslim, and Buddhist, and Hindu, etc) and secular parts of America, as well, as kids are pressured to "get ahead." At least the Orthodox have the Sabbath as a brake on this insanity. It seems like gone are the days when a kid could play baseball or soccer, or just run around in the woods because it's fun. No, he's got to be the next Derek Jeter, or David Beckham, or Steve Prefontaine. And if, like most of us, he doesn't have that kind of talent? well, he should just sit down and study. Maybe he'll be the next Einstein, or at least the next [insert name of some "whiz kid" who was a millionaire at 25] No wonder both childhood obesity and childhood sports injuries (from overdoing it) are on the rise. Two sides of the same coin, indeed.

This pattern exists in the areas in which we try to protect our children's minds. I remember, a couple years back, I was watching the Discovery Channel, and a show came on about the threat of an asteroid impact on earth. I find this to be depressing, so i switched to Comedy Central and watched South Park, instead. I couldn't help but notice that the asteroid program was rated TV/G, and South Park: you guessed it, TV/MA. So, some stupid jokes are only for a "mature audience," but the threat of the extinction of humanity, let's have all the 5 year olds watch it (not that adults should stick their heads in the sand about asteroids, our government should be doing more to track them; instead, for the past 4 years, we've been focusing on something that was much less of a threat, but I digress).

If we, as a society, try to remember the importance of maintaining innocence for a little while, we will always be able to distinguish pedophilia from homosexuality, and we will never have to worry about the former being legalized just because the latter was. If we remember this, the Supreme Court will surely be quick to remember that the state's interest in keeping children innocent outweighs the pedophiles right to privacy, and thereby distinguish Lawrence v. Texas . Note: I am not a psychologist, and neither do I play one on TV (and I didn't stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, either), but I feel I am qualified to write about this because I was a precocious and mostly friendless (and therefore bookish) child and, therefore, I felt that in some ways I lost my innocence at too young an age, ways that had nothing to do with sex. (a book can be a dangerous thing, sometimes, more dangerous than a bicycle, whose dangers I was continuously warned about) I guess that's why, at the age of 32, I like to indulge myself in a little immaturity now and again.
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    rejuvenated rejuvenated

On Dixie Chicks and Detroit Madmen

Something is bugging me, and I think I'm the person to comment on it, because I am a fan of both of these artists, perhaps the only person in the world who's a fan of both. My most recent song "addictions" (when I repeatedly press the "back" button on iTunes to hear the same song over and over again) have been "Not Ready to Make Nice," by the Dixie Chicks, and "Where You Going Now?" by Damn Yankees, a group fronted by Ted Nugent.

"Not Ready to Make Nice" was a song written by the Dixie Chicks in response to the bullshit that they have had to put up with since 2003, when Natalie Maines, their lead singer, told a London audience that she was ashamed to be from Texas, because George Bush is from there (For the record, he actually isn't, he was born in connecticut with a silver spoon in his mouth, don't fall for that Texas "man of the people" crap). There was a massive uproar. Their record sales slumped, radio stations boycotted them, worse yet, they had to deal with death threats. All this for a comment that merely shows that they have brains in their heads. I would be ashamed if I were a Texan. There are New Yorkers I am ashamed of, just none of the (4?) who have been elected President. (Millard Fillmore comes close, just kidding, chill out, all you angry Whigs) But it's not like Maines threatened anyone, let alone sitting public officials.

Which brings me to Ted Nugent, the Motor City Madman. Recently, Nugent has been doing his part to earn the third word of his nickname. Recently, the man threatened several sitting U.S. Senators including two who are running for President. This is MUCH more serious than what the Dixie Chicks did, yet I had to find out about it in the "what do you think" section of the Onion (I then verified it with a little research.)

Listen, Ted. I like your music. And, unlike many of my brethren in the liberal movement, I find nothing wrong with your attitude about hunting. Because I am not a vegetarian, and knowing what I know about the treatment of animals on factory farms, I would be an absolute hypocrite if I condemned hunting. I also think you have done some good work with inner-city kids, teaching them about the outdoors. I think you're a little nuts with your homophobia and hawkishness (especially when you, yourself, didn't serve in the military), but this is America, and you have freedom of speech, just don't expect me to vote for you for any office.

But this time you have gone too far. I don't have my Westlaw password with me right now (and I don't think my boss would appreciate my using the firm's account for this purpose, anyway), but I'm pretty sure that threatening the lives of federal officials is a federal offense. There are some exceptions to the First Amendment, or maybe you would like it if someone shouted "fire!" during one of your concerts. At the very least, what you did should earn you a visit from the FBI and the Secret Service. If you did not receive such a visit, I would like to know why. Count yourself lucky, Ted. Take the advice that one of one of your conservative brethren gave to Natalie Maines, and "shut up and sing."

NOTE: I am aware that "suck on my machine gun," may be little more than a creative way of saying "suck my dick!" However, it could certainly also be seen as a threat, and should be investigated as such.
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While I'm in an "embedding" mood.

For the 3 "US Americans" who have computers, but haven't seen this yet. Not sure if she's a total idiot or just a nervous public speaker. That's always a question when you see something like this.
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    Ich bin ein auslander, by Pop Will Eat Itself



Notice the date on this video. Notice that Dick Cheney was explaining why Bush I didn't go all the way to Baghdad in Gulf War I. Notice, also, that he used the word "quagmire." Wow. And they said Clinton was a flip-flopper.

Via Jewish Atheist
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    Not Ready to Make Nice, by the Dixie Chicks