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Old 10-02-2009, 08:59 PM   #41
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Yes, I'm quite sure those who argue that rich nations should not adopt carbon restrictions unless impoverished nations do are motivated out of concern for the lifespans of "much of the world."
I think you are misinterpreting samclem's points. It's not about whether we reduce carbon emissions or not - to really make a difference we are told we all need to reduce carbon emissions (it is called global warming, right?). Now, you tell the people in China and other developing countries that they can't have the higher standard of living that they are getting from coal and oil. I wish 'clean' technologies could do it for them, but right now they can't.


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Its true that not polluting always appears more expensive than polluting. But that's often only because it is easy to ignore the cost imposed on society of dirty air, undrinkable water or, in the case of carbon, global climate change.
And we could add a tax on fossil fuels to reflect those costs, but our politicians don't seem to be able to do that. Despite the fact that our friends in Europe seem to be able to do just that. And that is one reasoon they have higher mpg cars there.

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An observation - It is curious that many of the people who worry loudly about leaving a burden of debt on "our children" don't share the same concern about leaving them an inhabitable planet. Strange.
The debt is a solid number. The affect of curbing CO2 output versus adaptation, or some combination of each is difficult to measure. Not strange at all. People react to that which is clearer to them.


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Old 10-02-2009, 09:32 PM   #42
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Yes, I'm quite sure those who argue that rich nations should not adopt carbon restrictions unless impoverished nations do are motivated out of concern for the lifespans of "much of the world."
The motivations (or imputed motivations) of those putting forth an argument have no bearing on the truth of the argument.

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And the cost is not simply the potential loss of "2% of inhabitable land mass" but it is drought, and famine, and the social unrest that goes along with those things.
My contention is that the proposed solution (reducing carbon emissions) may very well have impacts (to include the previously mentioned famine, social unrest, and various other nasty outcomes) that will be similar to, and far more immediate than, the ones foreseen by Al Gore et al if we continue to use fossil fuels.

The production of energy through the burning of fossil fuels has tremendous social "externalitiies": costs and benefits to society in general that spill over from the economic activity of two private parties. (A good discussion of externalities is here ). If we look only at the negative externalities and not the positive ones, we'll make bad decisions. The "purest" answer is to determine if the externalities are a net negative, and if they are, to increase the cost to private parties to cover these negative externalities. (Any funds raised should be applied to addressing these negative externalities, to be fair.).
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Old 10-03-2009, 08:01 AM   #43
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I think you are misinterpreting samclem's points. It's not about whether we reduce carbon emissions or not - to really make a difference we are told we all need to reduce carbon emissions (it is called global warming, right?). Now, you tell the people in China and other developing countries that they can't have the higher standard of living that they are getting from coal and oil. I wish 'clean' technologies could do it for them, but right now they can't.
I don't think I'm misinterpreting anything. It seems entirely inconsistent to argue on one hand that you're motivated out of concern for the world's poor, while simultaneously arguing that we shouldn't do anything to slow global warming and that those who are impacted should simply "migrate" elsewhere. And, if we happen to be forced to curb our greenhouse gas emissions then reduction requirements should apply equally to the subsistence farmer in China as they do to the American enjoying a 3,000 square foot air conditioned home and two car garage.

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to really make a difference we are told we all need to reduce carbon emissions (it is called global warming, right?).
Not really. The global warming we're experiencing today is caused by the emissions that are already in the atmosphere. Those who put them there share the largest burden to clean up the mess.



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The debt is a solid number. The affect of curbing CO2 output versus adaptation, or some combination of each is difficult to measure. Not strange at all. People react to that which is clearer to them.
-ERD50
More likely, it seems, is that people react in whichever way their pre-conceived political leanings dictate they react. I recall that for eight years everyone from Dick Cheney to The Wall Street Journal editorial board argued that "deficits don't matter". But apparently what they really meant to say is that deficits don't matter as long as they are used to finance marginal tax cuts and foreign wars but they do matter when used to finance unemployment and health insurance.

Similarly, with environmental issues, the same arguments being used to defend inaction on climate change (the science is uncertain, its too expensive, not polluting will destroy the economy) were also used against legislation to clean up acid rain in the late 80's. It seems regardless how definitive the science, some will always stand against efforts to limit pollution because their political leanings dictate they resist protecting the environment as a "liberal" cause.
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Old 10-03-2009, 08:13 AM   #44
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The motivations (or imputed motivations) of those putting forth an argument have no bearing on the truth of the argument.
It does when a series of arguments is internally inconsistent . . . as in "we shouldn't do anything and if poor people are harmed by our inaction, they should simply move to higher ground" and "we shouldn't do anything, but if we do, it should only be in a way that harms poor people. And because we don't want to harm poor people, we shouldn't do anything."


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My contention is that the proposed solution (reducing carbon emissions) may very well have impacts (to include the previously mentioned famine, social unrest, and various other nasty outcomes) that will be similar to, and far more immediate than, the ones foreseen by Al Gore et al if we continue to use fossil fuels.
Except no one is talking about an immediate cessation of carbon emissions for precisely those reasons. Reducing pollution by 17% over the course of a decade (as proposed by the House Bill, which is still too restrictive to likely pass the Senate) doesn't seem to be catastrophic change.
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Old 10-03-2009, 08:55 AM   #45
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There'll be plenty of rich people moving to higher ground, too. That seems important to some people. I thought we were talking about global warming, but it turns out we were talking about finding a means to hurt some countries and help others. Luckily, a strawman has emerged to help carry on that argument with those who want to have it.

Does a CO2 molecule put into the atmosphere by an inefficient Chinese coal plant do less damage than one from the exhaust of an ambulance in Iowa?
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Old 10-03-2009, 09:33 AM   #46
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Luckily, a strawman has emerged to help carry on that argument with those who want to have it.
Gee, here I thought the strawman was the idea that anyone who wants to do anything to slow global warming is in favor of a complete and immediate cessation of all carbon emissions.


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Does a CO2 molecule put into the atmosphere by an inefficient Chinese coal plant do less damage than one from the exhaust of an ambulance in Iowa?
Yes, in the same way that $1 is more beneficial to a starving man than to someone who has $1MM. Or similarly, it is more harmful to ask a subsistence framer to give up his tractor than it is for a suburbanite to give up his Hummer.
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Old 10-03-2009, 09:48 AM   #47
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Evil methane - aka cow pharts in the global village. I remember reading Popular Science in the Barbers chair 55 years ago. 20 plus times more powerful than silly ole CO2.

heh heh heh - now I see on cable tv California et al has given Phd cats grants to go watch/measure it bubbling up from the depths off the coast.

200 feet - just checked my hill above the wide Missouri - post Katrina.
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Old 10-03-2009, 10:45 AM   #48
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I thought we were talking about global warming, but it turns out we were talking about finding a means to hurt some countries and help others.
Not true. But the only way to logically restrict carbon pollution is on a per capital basis, not by a country's aggregate pollution. If instead you believe that China must be restricted to aggregate carbon emissions no greater than that of the U.S., notwithstanding a population 4 times larger, then it logically follows that the U.S. should be prohibited from emitting more in aggregate than Germany, whose population is one forth the size of the U.S. (FYI, we emit 7 times as much as Germany does)

I also don't see what logic would conclude that a person from one country has the natural right to pollute more than a person from a different country (which seems to be your view).

It's obvious that the world can not support greenhouse gas emissions for the entire world population at the U.S. per capita rate. So therefore the U.S. per capita emissions have to come down to a level that is sustainable. Meanwhile, other countries who are polluting at a level below what the world can sustain, still have room to increase their pollution up to, but not above, a sustainable per capita rate. The goal should be for everyone to be at, or below, the exact same sustainable per capita rate.

That, by the way, is what conservatives used to champion as "equality of opportunity".
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Old 10-03-2009, 10:56 AM   #49
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I don't think I'm misinterpreting anything. It seems entirely inconsistent to argue on one hand that you're motivated out of concern for the world's poor, while simultaneously arguing that we shouldn't do anything to slow global warming and that those who are impacted should simply "migrate" elsewhere.
That isn't what I said, and let's put the straw men away please.

I didn't say we shouldn't do anything - the scientists say that even if we do a lot, there will still be rises in sea level, maybe as much as if we do nothing, they do not know.

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And, if we happen to be forced to curb our greenhouse gas emissions then reduction requirements should apply equally to the subsistence farmer in China as they do to the American enjoying a 3,000 square foot air conditioned home and two car garage.
The argument is that those fossil fuels are creating a higher standard of living for the Chinese - are we really in a position to say "don't do that"? But if we let them go on:

List of countries by carbon dioxide emissions - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Since the year of 2006, China is leading the world in terms of total CO2 emission,
we can't really expect meaningful reductions, can we? I don't have the stats handy, but I assume China is growing faster than others, also, that number excludes CO2 produced for exported goods, so it is not just a shift from US to China for our imports. That represents China's CO2 emissions.



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Not really. The global warming we're experiencing today is caused by the emissions that are already in the atmosphere. Those who put them there share the largest burden to clean up the mess.
OK, but lowering now doesn't reduce what is out there (I see samclem addressed the CO2 is CO2, so I'll stop here).


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More likely, it seems, is that people react in whichever way their pre-conceived political leanings dictate they react.
How about we try to keep politics out of it, esp straw-man politics. The thread will get closed with those lines. For one, I am against increasing the debt regardless the administration, so that one is a hollow argument. And let's not forget who created the EPA

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The EPA was proposed by President Richard Nixon and began operation on December 2, 1970, when its establishment was passed by Congress, and signed into law by President Nixon,
So let's stick to the argument, there are hypocrites at both ends of the political spectrum, neither deserve the time of day.

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Old 10-03-2009, 11:09 AM   #50
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That isn't what I said, and let's put the straw men away please.
Except I wasn't commenting on anything you said. A point you seemed to recognize earlier.

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I think you are misinterpreting samclem's points.
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Old 10-03-2009, 11:15 AM   #51
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Not true. But the only way to logically restrict carbon pollution is on a per capital basis, not by a country's aggregate pollution.
Really? I thought it was called "global warming", not "per capita warming"?

So if we are going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (as unclemick points out, we need to look at all gasses based on their contribution), we need to do it wherever they are. And since we live in a world where countries govern their people, we need to call on those countries to limit their emissions.

And to take your argument to its logical conclusion, we would need to lower our standard of living to that of a Chinese peasant, and they would not be allowed to raise their standard of living. Partially offset by limited, expensive, renewable energy sources which still have an environmental impact - check out that "Conservation without the hot air" pdf for more details.

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So therefore the U.S. per capita emissions have to come down to a level that is sustainable. Meanwhile, other countries who are polluting at a level that is below the level the world can sustain, still have room to increase their pollution up to, but not above, a sustainable per capita rate.
And what is this "sustainable rate" that will keep Bangladesh from flooding? The data I've seen indicates we already have emitted enough CO2 to do that. Do you have other data?

It's nice to say that no single person deserves to pollute any more than any other person. But I guess we can extend that to the idea that no single person deserves any more wealth than any other person. While my heart may feel some of that, I just don't think that you will get too many to go along with throwing all our belongings in a pot and dividing it up equally across our brothers and sisters worldwide. Same with our energy wealth.

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Old 10-03-2009, 11:15 AM   #52
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The argument is that those fossil fuels are creating a higher standard of living for the Chinese - are we really in a position to say "don't do that"? But if we let them go on:

List of countries by carbon dioxide emissions - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

. . .

The rest of this is addressed above
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Old 10-03-2009, 11:22 AM   #53
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If the goal is to reduce carbon emissions while doing the least damage to individual standards of living and the world economy (rather than doing social engineering) , then the country in which a particular CO2 molecule is emitted is irrelevant (just as the atmosphere makes no distinction). What's important is maximizing efficiency--getting the most productivity for each gram of CO2 produced. It doesn't matter where that CO2 is made--if this greenhouse gas issue is so darn important, then let's address it directly. Those who want a real solution should want to drive out wasteful producers of CO2 and encourage those who get the most productivity for each gram emitted.

If this is a worthwhile endeavor, and if we decide (as a planet) that reducing carbon emissions is worth the reduction in world living standards that higher energy prices will bring, then a straightforward increase in the price of carbon combustion, through a tax mechanism enforced in all countries uniformly, is the purest way to do it. It drives out inefficient C02 production everywhere, and that's what must be done f this is a global problem. Many will cheer the fact that big per capita energy users will be heavily affected. Lots of poor people will also be much worse off--but some believe that's a small price to pay for maybe reducing a possible problem many decades in the future--and, I suspect, bringing wealthy people (and the countries they live in) down a peg is a nice plus to many folks.
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Old 10-03-2009, 11:41 AM   #54
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Really? I thought it was called "global warming", not "per capita warming"?
So reconcile your views with U.S. emissions vs. Germany emissions.


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So if we are going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (as unclemick points out, we need to look at all gasses based on their contribution),
All greenhouse gases are included in pending legislation and credits are weighted by how potent the gas is. This is not new.


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And to take your argument to its logical conclusion, we would need to lower our standard of living to that of a Chinese peasant,
This is not the logical conclusion of my point. Talk about strawman arguments, my word. Our per-capita emissions haven't grown since before 1990. We did that without even trying. Imagine what we could have achieved if we actually tried to do better.

Why is the assumption that doing ANYTHING to improve the situation entails the most dramatic, cataclysmic, adjustment imaginable.



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And what is this "sustainable rate" that will keep Bangladesh from flooding?
Is this even relevant? If we're heading into an unavoidable car crash do we keep pressing the accelerator because some damage is unavoidable. Of course not.


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It's nice to say that no single person deserves to pollute any more than any other person. But I guess we can extend that to the idea that no single person deserves any more wealth than any other person.
Nice try, but you're comparing apples and oranges. Wealth has no natural limit. As long as the rules of the game are fair, one person's wealth does not prohibit another from being wealthy.

Pollution doesn't work that way. If the earth can only sustain a certain amount of pollution, than allowing one person to pollute more necessarily restricts another person's ability to pollute. And as long as the ability to pollute is correlated with the ability to create wealth, allowing some people to pollute more necessarily stacks the deck against those who have to pollute less.

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While my heart may feel some of that, I just don't think that you will get too many to go along with throwing all our belongings in a pot and dividing it up equally across our brothers and sisters worldwide. Same with our energy wealth.
Nobody is suggesting you do that. You can have anything you want. You just can't have it in a way that causes hardship for other people.
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Old 10-03-2009, 12:07 PM   #55
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I don't have time today to address all your points - but I will tackle this one:

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Why is the assumption that doing ANYTHING to improve the situation entails the most dramatic, cataclysmic, adjustment imaginable.
Ummm, because the IPCC says so? From the SPM2feb07.pdf.


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# Scenario A1T - * A1T - Emphasis on non-fossil energy sources.
* Sea level rise likely range [20 to 45 cm] (8 to 18 inches)

# Scenario A1FI - * A1FI - An emphasis on fossil-fuels.
* Sea level rise likely range [26 to 59 cm] (10 to 23 inches)

A1T - non-fossil fuel energy sources dominate.
Note the overlap. We go from an emphasis on fossil fuels to non-fossil fuels dominating and they can't predict whether that will even do anything at all.

We might have 18" of sea level rise if we go "green", and we might have only 10" even if don't. I can see why it would be tough to convince a citizen of an industrialized country that they need to cut back while we have no commitment from China to do the same (or even start slowing their increases).

Read that "without the hot air" document, and you tell me if moving to predominately "green" energy sources isn't a dramatic shift for us.

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Old 10-03-2009, 12:23 PM   #56
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Those who want a real solution should want to drive out wasteful producers of CO2 and encourage those who get the most productivity for each gram emitted.
Which is exactly what cap and trade is designed to do.

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then a straightforward increase in the price of carbon combustion, through a tax mechanism enforced in all countries uniformly, is the purest way to do it. I
The shortcoming of a tax is that it sets a price that is completely divorced from volume. If the goal is to reduce the volume of emissions to a certain level, than the tax rate will have to be set at the right price to achieve that outcome. But no one knows what that price is. So instead, you cap volumes at the desired level and let the market set a price that gets you there.
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Old 10-03-2009, 12:37 PM   #57
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Ummm, because the IPCC says so? From the SPM2feb07.pdf.

. . .

Read that "without the hot air" document, and you tell me if moving to predominately "green" energy sources isn't a dramatic shift for us.

-ERD50
It would be easier if you would provide links to your sources . . . SPM2feb07.pdf doesn't register a definitive hit, even at the IPCC web site.

and I assume "without the hot air" references this . . .David MacKay FRS: Sustainable Energy - without the hot air: Contents which I'll take a look at.

But keep in mind, that any analysis done today is based on a static view of the world and known technologies. We won't know what alternatives get invented once we start putting a price on carbon. Already someone claims to have invented a device that removes carbon from the atmosphere. Who knows?

. . .

So I'm scanning the "hot air" document and nowhere do I see a recommendation that everyone in the UK be forced to live like a "Chinese Peasant". Instead I see he thinks that by 2050 transportation should be electrified, electricity should be produced from "clean sources", buildings should be really well insulated, some crop land is devoted to bio fuels, move to light emitting diodes, etc, etc.

And his estimated cost to do this in today's dollars . . . ₤14,635 / per person.

Yeah, so? For the U.S. that works out to be about one half of one year's GDP. A big number, for sure, but it doesn't drive us back to the stone age (or even the 1990's)
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Old 10-03-2009, 02:44 PM   #58
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Already someone claims to have invented a device that removes carbon from the atmosphere.
Somebody invented a tree?
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Old 10-03-2009, 02:57 PM   #59
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The shortcoming of a tax is that it sets a price that is completely divorced from volume. If the goal is to reduce the volume of emissions to a certain level, than the tax rate will have to be set at the right price to achieve that outcome. But no one knows what that price is. So instead, you cap volumes at the desired level and let the market set a price that gets you there.
That's the wonder of it all. The goal obviously can't be to "reduce volume of emissions to a "certain level," because no one knows what that "certain level" is. Even those most on fire about this issue can't tell us what that "certain level" is--they just want the carbon emissions reduced by some amount--the amount apparently corresponding to their level of fervor more than any level based on science. And do it immediately. And everyone feel guilty, too. Hairshirts for everyone.

If we did know the "certain level" then it would be a straightforward matter to adjust the carbon tax so that level was achieved, over time. But it would only work if every significant player participated (rich, poor, developed, loinclothed-- a CO2 molecule is a CO2 molecule). The goal is worldwide carbon efficiency, not transferring a competitive advantage to People's Shirt Factory Number 7 at the expense of industries elsewhere.
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Old 10-03-2009, 03:31 PM   #60
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An interesting argument... kind of like the answer I got from a friend a long time ago when we were talking about if we believed in God... he said he did... which surprised me... his reasoning is like Pascal... IF God exists, then believing in him will get you to heaven... if he does not, then who cares.... he did not change what he did... he just 'believed'..
It looks like the conversation moved on but I came back in late so...

The problem with Pascal's argument is there are so many gods to choose among. How do choose the right one? And what if you choose the wrong one and the right one is a vindictive SOB who is more PO'd at you for choosing some looser deity than if you had just said no in the first place?
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