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About Pennsylvania...

It's not really one state Pennsylvania... having traveled there dozens of times for work I will never forget my first time in PA. I flew into the capital city of Harrisburg and drove up the Susquehanna river to reach my destination Williamsport PA. I assumed I was stepping into this big northeast urban corridor and was preparing myself mentally to be treated rudely and was on my toes to operate in a high crime area. Truth was I was actually in north Alabama! Had I landed in either Pittsburg or Philly my first impressions of PA would have been starkly different!


The two states of PA are on #1- Philly and Pittsburg... and #2-everything between Pitt and Philly! On that first trip to PA once I arrived at Williamsport and started my meetings I immediately felt a welcoming vibe despite meeting a variety of stakeholders. In my profession a variety of stakeholders includes hunters, bunny huggers, environmentalists, government agencies, politicians, public relations specialists, HSE professionals within energy companies and sometimes even the local garden club! Which can make for contentious meetings at times! However there in Williamsport we all sort of got along... it wasn't singing Kumbaya by the campfire but it was workable!


I couldn't believe I was in PA... I suppose growing up the only thing I had ever heard and seen on tv about PA was the one state of Pitt/Philly. I had never heard of that massive, expansive center part of PA, I now call "North Alabama". That first trip I made to PA was back around 2014 and the center of the state was booming! Fracking was making ordinary people filthy rich. Of course during that time anyplace with fracking was booming, even more so in west TX and North Dakota. You get a feel for the economic state of a rural area by the number and size of the pickup trucks! And Williamsport was jammed with Super Duty Ford F-infinte50's, when all of them have giant grill guards and fancy wheels you are surely in boom country! And all the soccer moms had full size SUVs... Suburbans and Excursions... nary a single Subaru in sight! And only a sprinkle of Toyotas! And of course the Toyotas were massive Tundra pickups.


When I pulled my rental car into any energy company field office site the gravel parking lot looked like a Ford monster truck convention. Each crew cab 4x4 truck representing a single oil field worker or pipeliner. I can't begin to express how shocked and surprised I was on this first trip to PA.


Since then I have made many trips to the Keystone State! With some of those trips including Pittsburgh and Philadelphia now. With every trip I am still blown away by the sharp contrast between the 2 states of PA. I suppose its the same really throughout our country, a stark divide is forming between urbanites and rural dwellers. Most of civilized human history tells a story of abuse, subjugation and persecution from the more wealthy urbanites towards the backwards rural peasant farmers. The rural folks today mostly lack broadband and many of the social programs their city neighbors enjoy. There is just less opportunity all the way around for rural citizens, whether it be employment, social, educational or recreational. Elon Musk might help with the broadband and if he pulls it off should easily get the Nobel Peace Prize. I mean Obama got it right? While Obama managed 3 wars and shoveled money into Big Bank CEO's coffers. But at least he was smooth about it. And smooth is what matters most!


With the presidential election days away the media is focused in on the Keystone State. It will very likely determine our next president. In ecology we refer to certain species as "Keystone Species". These are species in an ecosystem upon which the entire system depends, remove or deplete this keystone species and the entire system falls. For example I did my Master's research on the gopher tortoise in Florida... this desert animal digs an extensive burrow within which over 350 species benefit by using that burrow... we call these dependent species "commensals". But... remove the tortoise and therefore its burrows and you collapse that entire community. Its appropriate now then for the media to focus on the Keystone State of PA. Should a potential presidential candidate lose the keystone, their entire campaign falls apart!


However this media attention seems to be focused on the one state of PA and not the 2 states of PA. With their polls consistently touting a wide margin of victory for Joe Biden I have to question their tunnel vision. You see I had that same view of PA on my first trip, likely due to how the media had painted PA for me growing up. Based on what I have learned working in PA I am hard pressed to believe a sweeping victory is coming for Joe Biden in "north Alabama".


If we learned anything in 2016 its the polls are not much more than a shot in the dark. At worst they are outright propaganda to sway voter turnout and intent. Once humans begin to build complicated models more and more bias is built in... the more complicated the model the more opportunity for little slivers of bias to creep in. As a whole these little nuances of bias render a well thought out model useless. The modelers are indeed very smart people with perhaps noble intent... but they are human. We see what we want to see. Most of the media only wants to see the one state of PA.


Now personally I do not have a dog in this fight. I dislike both presidential candidates equally. I did cast a vote for one of them... basically choosing the less senile of the two! They are both weak human beings I do not wish to emulate. And to be president you absolutely MUST carry my state- FLORIDA. Winning Florida does not necessarily win the election... but its very hard to do without Florida! But... after Florida is called all eyes will be on the 2 Keystone states of Pennsylvania and north Alabama!




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