June 2008 Archives

St. Paul


I was thinking about doing a post on the Pauline Year, but I don't think one can beat Amy Welborn's post here.

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21st Century Snake Oil

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An internet ad I just saw:

"Cleanse Patch® is a Detoxifying Foot Patch That Extracts Toxins Overnight"

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Pauline Year


This weekend marks the start of "The Pauline Year" declared by Pope Benedict XVI to deepen the Church's devotion to and understanding of St. Paul. This H2O News report interviews the Archpriest of St. Paul Outside the Walls Basilica in Rome and includes video of the basilica, my favorite church in Rome.

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Harriet McBryde Johnson


Christine Rosen has a worthwhile tribute to the recently deceased disability-rights advocate in today's WSJ:

When Harriet McBryde Johnson died earlier this month at the age of 50 from a congenital neuromuscular disease, obituaries called her a "disability-rights activist." This is far too narrow a description of her life. She was less a traditional activist than an acute social conscience. Ms. Johnson forced us to look at disability in a different way -- not as something that we should seek to eradicate, but as something that is integral to the human condition, a "natural part of the human experience," as the American Association of People With Disabilities puts it.

Ms. Johnson, a lawyer, first earned national attention when she debated philosopher Peter Singer at Princeton University in 2003, an experience she wrote about for the New York Times Magazine. Thankfully free of the ponderous cant that infects so much of bioethics, she was brutally direct when she talked about disabilities, including her own. "Most people don't know how to look at me," she wrote, describing her severely twisted spine and her "jumble of bones in a floppy bag of skin." But she abhorred the "veneer of beneficence" that overlay the arguments of those who said she would be "better off" without her disability. "The presence or absence of a disability doesn't predict quality of life," she argued, challenging Mr. Singer's support of what she called "disability-based infanticide."...

Although they never formed formal alliances (and Not Dead Yet takes no position on prebirth issues, such as genetic selection), Ms. Johnson and her fellow activists often found themselves on the same side of the ramparts as conservative Christians: Not Dead Yet marshaled the support of 25 national disability groups to oppose the attempts of Terry Schiavo's husband to "starve and dehydrate her to death," for example, and defended congressional efforts to intervene in the case. As Diane Coleman, president of Not Dead Yet, told a group in Tampa, Fla., during the Schiavo controversy: "Surely, it will not be argued that the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, the National Down Syndrome Congress, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund and all the rest are now or ever have been puppets of religious conservatives." Indeed, Ms. Johnson, an atheist, once chastised Mr. Singer for describing his enemies as a monolith of religious faithful focused solely on "the sanctity of human life."...

In many ways, the truths that Ms. Johnson forced us to confront are easier to dismiss when they come from so-called right-wing religious nuts. Ms. Johnson, with her experience of disability and her commitment to liberal principles, made people far more uncomfortable. Her critique challenged our cultural assumptions about disability. How accepting are we, really, of those who are not able-bodied? "The peculiar drama of my life has placed me in a world that by and large thinks it would be better if people like me did not exist," she wrote. "My fight has been for accommodation, the world to me and me to the world." Yet, despite the lip service we pay to "accommodation" (and the genuine good that comes from legislation such as the Americans With Disabilities Act), we now find ourselves in a disturbing situation: As our scientific powers to eliminate disability grow, our acceptance of disability wanes.

Do read the whole thing, and here is Johnson's NYT Magazine write-up, mentioned by Rosen, of her encounter with Singer .

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Obama 08


Without endorsing John McCain, which I will never, ever do, I present to you the awesomest bumper sticker ever.


Awesome. For my thoughts on the upcoming election, I refer you to these Zippy posts, though I'm not as sure as he that abstention is morally superior to voting third party or submitting a blank ballot.

For more on Obama, here's Steve Rhodes at The Beechwood Reporter:

As Phil Ponce put it, Barack Obama made a "rare" appearance before Chicago reporters on Wednesday, and he made a challenge to the locals that they failed.

"You will recall that for my entire political career here, basically, I was not the the endorsed candidate of any political organization here. That I didn't go around wielding a bunch of clout. That my reputation in Springfield was as an independent. And my reputation here was also as somebody who would to try to work with everybody. There is no doubt I had friends and continue to have friends who come out of the more traditional school of Chicago politics but that's not what launched my political career and that's not what I've ever depended on in order to get elected and I would challenge any Chicago reporter to dispute that basic fact."

Ooh, ooh! Me! Me!

"But you once told Emil Jones that he could make you a United States Senator. And you exchanged endorsements with Richard M. Daley - whom your wife once worked for - and your political career here was funded by Tony Rezko. You also endorsed the organization candidate over the reformer every single time and never spoke out against 'the more traditional school of Chicago politics', by which you mean 'corrupt,' or led an independent or reform movement. In fact, while traveling around America as the candidate of change, you recently told the Tribune editorial board that you would leave criticism of Chicago corruption up to others, like John Kass."

Not a single reporter said anything even close to that. In fact, in the video of this exchange I saw on Chicago Tonight, no reporter responded to Obama's challenge.

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I Will Never Tire of Saying It


I love Get Fuzzy

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Missin' Cousins


This brief column by Anthony Esolen from a 2006 issue of Touchstone reminds me that I've never bragged here about the fact in addition to my two siblings I have at least 35 first cousins by blood.

The family had gathered around him, and in our case that meant that a few of my cousins who lived nearby stopped to say farewell. One cousin in particular hung his arm around my father’s shoulder and talked to him about the times long ago, when he was just a kid with a live fastball and my father was the coach. He smiled and told stories, leaning over to keep the old man from having to turn his head, almost whispering into his ear...

But the odd thing about this scene, for modern Americans, is not that my cousin should express his affection in so touching a way, but that there should be any cousin at all in that room--any person with intimate ties to a family beyond his parents and siblings, and a deep reservoir of shared memories with that family. Americans who live in separate bedrooms and worship at separate television sets may find it hard to imagine the bond that would link not merely brother and brother, but kinfolk a couple of streets or farms away...

Most Christians have noticed that families have become small, and many Christians see that it involves a peculiar rejection of generosity. We say that we can’t have a lot of children because we want to give the children we do have the greatest opportunities we can. Thus we assume that our children are deeply selfish, as if they would prefer a yearly vacation in the Adirondacks to another brother or sister, or, to put it differently, as if in years to come they might look at a younger sibling and wistfully daydream of hikes that never were.

But that is where our analysis stops: with the nuclear family, the hydrogen or helium family. It hasn’t occurred to us to ask what our small families do to neighborhoods and churches, or even to the families to which we are related. For if we fail to give our children siblings, we also fail to give them cousins, and fail to give what cousins they do have the number of cousins they need. We cannot isolate ourselves without doing our part to isolate others, too, and whether they like it or not.

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Scratch that Itch... or not


Hypochondriacs probably shouldn't read this.

One morning, after she was awakened by her bedside alarm, she sat up and, she recalled, "this fluid came down my face, this greenish liquid." She pressed a square of gauze to her head and went to see her doctor again. M. showed the doctor the fluid on the dressing. The doctor looked closely at the wound. She shined a light on it and in M.'s eyes. Then she walked out of the room and called an ambulance. Only in the Emergency Department at Massachusetts General Hospital, after the doctors started swarming, and one told her she needed surgery now, did M. learn what had happened. She had scratched through her skull during the night--and all the way into her brain.
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What he says:

Goldberg is certainly right when he says that most academics have willfully ignored modern liberalism's progressive-fascist roots, although scholars such as James Ceaser, John Marini, and others (including me) have in fact been calling attention to the progressive origins of modern liberalism for the past 20 years. Liberal Fascism clearly draws from these works but makes surprisingly little reference to them, even in a few instances when the book's observations sound awfully familiar.

What he means:

Where my props at, yo?
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Fr. Mark is running a novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help that begins today. Go now!


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Dante Exhonerated


I don't know which is the more absurd part of this story -- that Florence's city council is debating Dante or that five of the twenty-four councilmen opposed lifting Dante's exile seven centuries after the fact.

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Not What You Want to Year


From my wife, on the phone:

I have to go -- the boys are fighting and they have hammers.

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Negativity Works


Hendrik Hertzsberg, eulogizing Hillary Clinton's campaign:

...it's hard to find anyone who will dispute that if she had not voted to authorize the Iraq war, or if her delegate-hunting strategy had been as astute as her principal opponent's, or if that opponent had been a slightly more ordinary politician, or, perhaps, if her campaign messages had been more coherent and less negative, then she would have breezed to the nomination and made history all by herself.

Emphasis mine.

Maybe. Or maybe she didn't go negative early enough. For all of the media hand-wringing over her campaigns' attacks on Obama and her stupid pandering (both of which, I should say, I found shameful), she pretty thoroughly whipped him in most states that held primaries, which -- far more than the caucuses that Obama dominated -- favor the less politically engaged, who are the most likely to be persuaded by attacks and inconsistent messages. So maybe if she really wanted the nomination, she should have started smearing Obama from the get-go. Maybe she could have peeled away some of his support in Iowa, or really creamed him in New Hampshire, completely reversing his momentum instead of merely slowing him down until he could roll in South Carolina.

Regardless, the one mistake Clinton made that Hertzberg missed is that for almost a year, until January, Clinton campaigned like she was entitled to the nomination. She assumed she was going to steamroll, barely even campaigning in Iowa until it was too late. She was "inevitable," until she wasn't. She then adopted the "underdog" pose, fighting tooth and nail for every vote in the last half of the campaign. If she had scrapped like that for the first half, she might be the nominee.

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Whit Stillman


I'd previously stumbled upon and enjoyed this appreciation of American director Whit Stillman from an old issue of The Intercollegiate Review. Little did I know that nearly all of the Spring 2000 issue was devoted to Stillman.

Mama-Lu and I recently rented Barcelona, and it was certainly as good as I can remember it being.

Some quotes, my memory augmented by the IMDB.

  • Fred: But what do you call the message or meaning that's right there on the surface, completely open and obvious? They never talk about that. What do you call what's above the subtext?
    Ted: The text
    Fred: Yeah, but they never talk about that.

  • "I don't think Ted is a fascist of the marrying kind."

  • Ted: I don't think you understand. I was reducing everything to ant scale, the... the U.S. included. An ant White House, an ant CIA, an ant Congress, an ant Pentagon...
    Ramon: Secret ant landing strips, illegally established on foreign soil."

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Recipes That Don't Turn Your Kitchen Into a Sauna


A typically useful post over at Danielle Bean's.

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Giving the People What they Want


To whomever showed up looking for "why eomer screams":

Because he thinks his freakin' sister is dead!

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The Chicago Noose


Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader has noticed that ridiculous Salon article I pointed out last month.

Joravsky's much more informed (that's why he makes the big bucks) take:

Soldier Field, Meigs Field, the proposed Children's Museum in Grant Park--these are just some of the better-known examples of Daley storming over his opposition. If he wants a project, he'll shove it down our throats. If anyone doesn't like it, he'll throw a temper tantrum. He'll call them names and scorn their leaders, playing the race card if that's what it takes. So much for overcoming a toxic political environment.

But those are the high-profile cases, where someone actually dared to mount an opposition. Much more insidious is the coercion we never hear about. Most aldermen are afraid to vote against him because they fear him and need him--they can't hold on to their seats if Daley messes with how well they serve their constituents. Several have told me that they typically don't know what they're voting on: if an ordinance comes from the fifth floor, that's all they need to know. Many still don't understand how TIF districts work, yet the City Council has been routinely approving new ones for the last ten years, sucking millions of tax dollars into slush funds. Now the city's gearing up to spend hundreds of millions of local property tax dollars on the Olympics.

Daley doesn't encourage discussion--he stifles it. He loathes criticism and disparages debate. He takes credit for the good and shucks responsibility for the bad. Just a few weeks ago I heard an alderman in an unguarded moment tell his northwest-side constituents what happens to bills that don't come out of the mayor's office: If Daley doesn't like a bill, he kills it. If he likes it, he rewrites it and claims it as his own.

As for Chicago in 2008 being a hospitable time for organizers "like the young Barack Obama," the truth is that Daley's pretty well destroyed community organizing in Chicago. Many of the fiercest groups have either disap­peared or been co-opted--they pull their punches because, like the aldermen, they don't want to get on the mayor's bad side. It took activists years to get the smoking ban passed over Daley's opposition, and even then the mayor forced them into water­ing it down. Despite backing from Cardinal George and would-be independent alder­men, activists still can't get an afford­able housing ordinance through the City Council, though they've been trying for more than a decade. There used to be several vigilant budget watchdog groups in Chicago, with the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group leading the pack. Now there are none.

Elsewhere in this week's Reader: Mad Libs -- Chicago Political Media Style!

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Edwina Froehlich, R.I.P.


From the NYTimes:

Edwina Froehlich, who was inspired to help found La Leche League to support breast-feeding after being told at the age of 35 that she was too old to make breast milk for her baby, died Sunday in Arlington Heights, Ill. She was 93 and lived in Inverness, Ill.

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Doom and Gloom Thursday

The contradiction facing those who seek to lower prices is that the more money Bernanke puts out to fight off the collapse of housing prices, the more he weakens the purchasing power of the dollar, which in turn results in higher prices for oil--and a lot of other things.

Bernanke knows this. He is not a perversely obdurate man but one who is terrified at what might happen if housing prices continue to drop, since so many financial instruments are directly or indirectly affected by what happens with those mortgages, both the prime and not so prime. Entities as distant as drudgy, dependable municipal bonds can rise or fall on what happens with housing. Many municipal bonds, used to finance such exciting projects as street lights and storm sewers, are dependent on real-estate tax revenue expected from particular subdivisions. Thus, if the homeowners default, there may not be enough taxpayers left to pay the interest on the munis.

But municipal bonds aren't keeping Bernanke up at night. He is looking at the monsters of the Wall Street depths--financial arrangements with ugly names like credit default swap.

This kind of swap is a form of insurance dreamt up in the early 1990s for real-estate bond buyers to ensure that they got their money back in the event that the bonds defaulted. The market for credit default swaps now exceeds $45 trillion, more than the combined value of every residence in the United States. What started out as a sensible insurance mechanism has turned into speculation dwarfing the annual handle of all the casinos in the world.

Hanging in the air over lower Manhattan is what may happen if housing prices continue to fall, the bonds backing the mortgages on the foreclosed housing go into default, and those who sold the swaps aren’t able to come up with enough money to cover the losses. Maybe the trillions of dollars in commitments get worked out some way or another, or maybe, faster than the Fed chairman can get to his office to stop it, the system implodes into something the size of a billiard ball.


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Illinois, only in Illinois


Democrat Mike Madigan, Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, issued a memo today to Illinois Democratic legislature candidates urging them to call for the House to investigate whether impeachment proceedings should be brought against our governor, Democrat Rod Blagojevich. The memo (warning: large .pdf) includes a list of reasons why the Governor should be impeached as well as talking points and answers to potential media questions. Some of the reasons are better than others (good reason: in the recent Ali Ata trial, Blagojevich was publicly identified as "Public Official A," implicating him as accepting campaign contributions in return for jobs; bad reason: Blagojevich proposed a gross receipts tax last year. I don't like taxes, but do we impeach officials for stupid policy?), but on the whole I think an impeachment investigation is warranted.

Of course, being Illinois, there has to be an element of ham-handed stupidity. The memo counsels the candidates to deny Madigan's involvement and refuse to comment on the implications of impeachment for Lisa Madigan (current Illinois Attorney General and daughter of the memo's propagator) and her aspirations to the governor's office. Have these morons never heard of the internet? This stuff gets out no matter what. Republican House Minority Leader Tom Cross of course pounced, pointing out that in a memo calling for impeaching the Governor for, among other things, lying, Madigan recommends the candidates lie.

For more, see The Capitol Fax.

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Sad Day in C-U


The Office (the bar not the TV show) is closed for good.

Of course, this partially stems from The Office serving underaged kids during Unofficial, and Tom Cochrane plans to take advantage of stupidly generous tax breaks (do we really need to subsidize the owner of several existing bars) to open a new bar in the same spot, so don't shed too many tears.

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1st Century Church Possibly Discovered in Jordan


I'm surprised this isn't making bigger headlines.

We have uncovered what we believe to be the first church in the world, dating from 33 AD to 70 AD," the head of Jordan's Rihab Centre for Archaeological Studies, Abdul Qader al-Husan, said.

He said it was uncovered under Saint Georgeous Church, which itself dates back to 230 AD, in Rihab in northern Jordan near the Syrian border.


These Christians, who are described in a mosaic as "the 70 beloved by God and Divine," are said to have fled persecution in Jerusalem and founded churches in northern Jordan, Husan added.


Inside the cave there are several stone seats which are believed to have been for the clergy and a circular shaped area, thought to be the apse.

UPDATE: Duh. Mike Aquilina has been on the case all week. He even links to pictures (scroll past the ads).

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Here and There

  • The review you've all been waiting for: Adoremus on Piero Marini's A Challenging Reform. The review is surprisingly gentle, but definitely negative.
    It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the book serves more as a "J'accuse" than a simple memoir. Bitterness and even rancor bleed through the text on many a page. Compared elsewhere to a spaghetti western with heroes wearing white hats and villains wearing black, the account is reminiscent likewise of a medieval chronicle, in which history, hagiography, and moralizing all conspire to tell a plangent, nay at times even maudlin, tale.

    Marini portrays Bugnini in glowing terms as the tireless visionary and dauntless reformer who, advancing an agenda of inculturation and purportedly vindicating the cause of national episcopal conferences the world over, battles the prejudices of the Roman Curia enthralled by the ultimate foe, the Council of Trent. Time and again throughout the chronicle Trent rears its hydra-heads to threaten authentic liturgical reform. Its tinpot army is the Roman Curia, in the vanguard of which march and fight the Congregation of Rites, founded by Sixtus V in 1588 and dissolved by Paul VI in 1969.

  • The Betrayal of Judas

    When the Gospel of Judas was unveiled at a news conference in April 2006, it made headlines around the world -- with nearly all of those articles touting the new and improved Judas. "In Ancient Document, Judas, Minus the Betrayal," read the headline in The New York Times. The British paper The Guardian called it "a radical makeover for one of the worst reputations in history." A documentary that aired a few days later on National Geographic's cable channel also pushed the Judas-as-hero theme. The premiere attracted four million viewers, making it the second-highest-rated program in the channel's history, behind only a documentary on September 11.

    But almost immediately, other scholars began to take issue with the interpretation of Meyer and the rest of the National Geographic team. They didn't see a good Judas at all. In fact, this Judas seemed more evil than ever. Those early voices of dissent have since grown into a chorus, some of whom argue that National Geographic's handling of the project amounts to scholarly malpractice. It's a perfect example, critics argue, of what can happen when commercial considerations are allowed to ride roughshod over careful research. What's more, the controversy has strained friendships in this small community of religion scholars -- causing some on both sides of the argument to feel, in a word, betrayed.

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Father's Day is Coming


Policy Review has a surprisingly positive review of Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, available at fine bookstores everywhere.

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On that movie


Anthony Lane lets loose on Sex and the City:

What followed was not strictly a movie. It was more like a TV show on steroids. The televised episodes, which ran from 1998 to 2004, lasted for no more than half an hour each. So, spare a thought for the director of the film, Michael Patrick King, who also wrote the screenplay. Faced with the flimsiest of concepts, he had to take it by both ends and pull until he stretched it out to two and a quarter hours. Two and a quarter! When Garbo made "Anna Karenina" in 1935, she got happy, unhappy, loved, left, and under the train in less than a hundred minutes, so how the hell are her successors supposed to fill the time?

To be fair, there are four of them--banded together, like hormonal hobbits, and all obsessed with a ring. As the story begins, two are married already. First, there is Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), who has a job, a child, and not enough sex with her husband, Steve (David Eigenberg), perhaps because he reminds her of Radar, from "M*A*S*H" Then comes Charlotte (Kristin Davis), who is blissfully wedded to--well, what is she wedded to, exactly? He goes by the name of Harry (Evan Handler), but he’s a ringer for Dr. Evil, from the "Austin Powers" franchise, with all the evil sucked away; what remains is fey and shiny-headed, smiling sweetly about something known only to himself. For a movie about the need for real men--lusty, loyal, and loaded--this unusual earthling is truly a most peculiar advertisement for the gender.


At least, you could argue, Miranda has a job, as a lawyer. But the film pays it zero attention, and the other women expect her to drop it and fly to Mexico without demur. (And she does.) Worse still is the sneering cut as the scene shifts from Carrie, carefree and childless in the New York Public Library, to the face of Miranda's young son, smeared with spaghetti sauce. In short, to anyone facing the quandaries of being a working mother, the movie sends a vicious memo: Don't be a mother. And don't work. Is this really where we have ended up--with this superannuated fantasy posing as a slice of modern life? On TV, "Sex and the City" was never as insulting as "Desperate Housewives," which strikes me as catastrophically retrograde, but, almost sixty years after "All About Eve," which also featured four major female roles, there is a deep sadness in the sight of Carrie and friends defining themselves not as Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, and Thelma Ritter did--by their talents, their hats, and the swordplay of their wits--but purely by their ability to snare and keep a man. Believe me, ladies, we're not worth it.

I haven't seen anybody else address the "Mommy Wars" aspect of SATC: why choose between being a working mom or a stay at home mom when you can be a stay at home concubine?

This ought to go without saying, but it's The New Yorker on Sex and the City, so if your sensibilities are delicate, they're likely to be disturbed.

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  • James Wood presents the standard case against God based on the problem of evil under the guise of a review of Bart Ehrman's latest. I obviously don't agree with Wood, but it's an argument no Christian should ignore, and Wood presents it better than anybody.

  • Sandro Magister describes a pilgrimage to St. Peter's tomb.

    Imagine that it is night, as in the photo above. We're walking down a little path flanked by Roman tombs of the second and third century after Christ. We're at the bottom slope of the Vatican Hill. A short distance away is the imposing obelisk that stood at the center of the stadium of Caligula and Nero. That's where the apostle Peter was martyred. And along the path stands the monument marking the place where he was buried.

  • Ross Douthat ably explains why it was incredibly stupid for Douglas Kmiec's chaplain to deny him Communion.

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Mama-Lu's Etsy Shop

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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