Hilton Head Island Reflections and Observations

Our family recently wrapped-up that American summertime ritual of the week-long gathering at a coastal sandbar by the ocean. For my clan, the location of choice for some time has been Hilton Head Island, specifically on the southern end in the Sea Pines community.

In the interests of fair disclosure: I am not a golfer, I spend my days in places like these trying to avoid direct sun, and I will tire of a pool or beach within half an hour. So, in many respects, the week of summer seaside fun is not the place for me. But if the kids are happy, everyone is together, and the food is good, I am all in.

Plus, as a bonus, a week at Hilton Head offers enjoyable and entertaining pursuits for me; they are just unconventional to most beach vacationers. I enjoy observing, contemplating what I see, and then expressing my thoughts through writing. The summer of 2021 and Hilton Head combined to offer up a bevy of observations.

Observation #1: Humans Taming Nature Brings Good Tidings

The first thing that always strikes me about the island is how unforgiving and unusable the place would be without human ingenuity unleashing technology to tame the environment. The place in its natural state is a humid, hot, swampy, stormy, insect-infested ecosystem that makes quick work of the weak, structures, and order. But you walk Hilton Head’s streets and ride its trails, and all you see is beauty: in the manicured lawns, impressive homes, sculpted trees, and carefully designed water features.

The irony that strikes the observer is that those who are drawn to Hilton Head Island view the natural beauty of the place as the primary attraction. Yet a simple and superficial examination betrays a carefully created and cultivated environment that retained the best that nature had to offer (local horticulture), removed the problematic aspects of nature (standing, putrid water), and insulated from the uncontrollable aspects (weather).

Looking around the island, you see the human condition rising above what nature dealt and creating something superior. That makes people happy, and me smile.

Observation #2: Without Carbon, No One Would Be Here
Hilton Head Island’s existence, and that of all tropical locales, depends on carbon. It’s a simple truth: no carbon, no Hilton Head Island.

Why? Well, first off, one could not travel from whatever northern or midwestern city serves as home. And consider the fact that just about everything consumed on the island must be grown, processed, and manufactured somewhere else. All of that requires carbon-based energy, including what it takes to transport the goods to the island.

The electricity that powers the air conditioners 24 hours a day in the summer is largely carbon-based and natural gas-fired. You would not want a wind- or solar-based power grid running climate control in the Carolina Low Country. It would mean stifling indoor temperatures, to the point where you’d be better off staying home up north.

If there is a zero-carbon world awaiting us, the last place you’d want to own real estate or spend a summer week is at a place like Hilton Head. I suspect many northeasterners who vacation down south are oblivious to such realities. Let’s hope they don’t awaken to the reality the hard way, via nonsensical policies.

Observation #3: How to Differentiate Between the 10%, the 1%, and the 0.1%

A place like Sea Pines on Hilton Head provides a quick and easy way to instantly differentiate between the 10% well to do, the 1% rich, and 0.1% ultra-wealthy. Just look at the real estate and who is there. Here is a quick breakdown:

  • If someone is renting a house in Sea Pines during peak summer season, chances are they are doing well and fall within the upper 10% of the economic crust. Weekly rates on the southern end of the island can run as high as $14,000 per week, depending on the size of the home and its proximity to the ocean. Demand is high; if you want to secure your house for your week, you better commit early (in many instances you need to commit the prior year).
  • Now, if someone owns the home in Sea Pines and rents it out during peak season, you are likely dealing with someone in the upper 1% of the wealth spectrum. Basically, the top 1% is the landlord for the top 10% weekly tenants in places like Hilton Head. Surprisingly, many homeowners in this group don’t seem to care much about the physical condition of the home; for some the home is nothing more than a revenue generator that can be enjoyed for free in offseason.
  • Then there is the 0.1% at the tippy-top of the money ladder who own the impressive estate down that is unoccupied most of summer. These are the super wealthy that don’t rent their residences out because, well, they don’t need to. Undoubtedly, the estate here is one of a number they own. So instead of heading down here in summer when its peak season, hot, and busy, they come down in the offseason to escape New York, Boston, or some other large northern city winter.

Observation #4: The Weekly Collision of Doers and Slackers

Hilton Head is typical of many seaside resort communities by offering a stark contrast when it comes to the those on the island any weekday in the summer. There are two distinct groups: those who are on vacation and do nothing but engage in various forms of relaxation and those who are intensely working to maintain, serve, or build the economic ecosystem that is the resort.

It’s always been weird for me when vacationing at these types of locales. Families on bikes, eating out, laying on the beach, and sleeping late. Versus dedicated workers building houses, maintaining lawns, running restaurants, and working 50+ hours per week. One group riding bikes and driving SUVs. The other driving pickups and vans. Both groups going about their day as if the other group is invisible.

I like the vibe of economic activity; doers showing up every day and getting it done. Earning income, providing for their families, and building a life. The local economy in the Low Country is the free market working to create value across the economic spectrum. The free exchanging of value between those who desire leisure and those who provide it. At least for the week, until the vacationers return to their jobs; creating, enabling, and serving to create value.

Observation #5: How the Drive Down and Back Covers the Spectrum of Government

The drive from Pennsylvania to South Carolina offers the opportunity to see how different states approach the role of government and the taxpayer. Toll roads serve as a great illustration.

In Pennsylvania, once a toll road is created, it lives on in eternity. And the cost of the toll continues to go up. It doesn’t matter if the initial justification was to pay for a discrete infrastructure project and now the project is paid off. It doesn’t matter if the tolls are egregious. It doesn’t matter if the road is poorly maintained. The tolls in Pennsylvania live on year after year, dollar after dollar, and mile after mile.

This is not cheap. A round trip on the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg (spanning about 2/3 of the state’s length) will run you just under $100. Drivers were hit with yet another rate increase in 2021. And the PA Turnpike had the dubious distinction of being rated the most expensive toll road in the world. One may wonder where all that toll money ends up.

The bureaucrat’s justification for the driver extortion is to fund statewide road maintenance, yet the Keystone State’s road system remains in overall poor condition year after year. Instead, the answer, of course, is to primarily feed the bureaucracy of government and its affiliates like the public unions. In Pennsylvania, government only grows, which means tolls only rise while the condition of the roads degrade. And the number of roads that will require toll payment within the Keystone State is increasing.

North Carolina’s abuse of taxpayers and drivers is not as bad as Pennsylvania, but it is getting there. The major highways into and out of Charlotte are now split between toll express lanes and normal lanes. That means traffic congestion is self-inflicted by government on those drivers not willing to be extorted; the toll lanes are wide open and the normal lanes are clogged in traffic jams most hours of the day. Government creates the congestion to grow its revenue base, drivers pay the price directly (through the toll or longer commute times) and the economy pays the price indirectly through lost productivity.

South Carolina is a different story. The Palmetto State has a law that states once a toll road pays off its project financing, the toll booths must come down and the road becomes free and open access. That’s exactly what happened recently on Hilton Head with the Cross Island Parkway: once its final bond payment was paid, access became free and the toll booths will come down.

The drive to and from this year’s vacation illustrates the difference between government serving the people and the people serving government. The former makes you feel relevant while the latter makes you feel used.

Observation #6: Doesn’t Look Like Climate Change is a Top Concern

Up and down the island, you see a building boom. The few remaining vacant lots being staked out for massive, new homes. Older homes are being bought, torn down, and replaced with new houses having three times as much square footage as the predecessors. The closer to the water, the better.

Island real estate values seem to go only in one direction: up. The Fed’s free money policy inflates and pumps real estate values to bubble levels. Buy it, build it, remodel it, rent it, flip it. Repeat over and over (at least until the music stops).

The building boom and dizzying real estate property price increases tell you that no one believes the island is about to be submerged under rising ocean levels. Yes, hurricanes will inevitably hit the island periodically. But building codes and a few rational design features on the homes will make them quite resilient to withstand all but the most severe of storms.

The community of Hilton Head, along with so many other coastal destinations, figured out that increasing atmospheric CO2 levels made its tourism economy possible. Whatever challenges climate may serve up should be manageable over time. Permanent evacuation of the island and resettling to higher ground is not going to be necessary anytime soon. Perhaps the UN’s IPCC bureaucrats should take note.

Conclusion

Human ingenuity, technological innovation, and the free market economy make places like Hilton Head Island possible. These wonderous drivers make the useless and inhospitable valuable and inviting. The more we do to protect these quality of life catalysts, the better chance our kids and grandchildren will enjoy their fruits for decades to come.

Broadening Path to Middle Class Starts with Closing Digital Divide

On May 4, 2021, Nick Deiuliis joined Pittsburgh Steeler legend and Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis to help close the digital divide at Sto-Rox High School. Through a recently formed partnership between Jerome Bettis’ Bus Stops Here Foundation, The Education Partnership and CNX Resources Corporation, Deiuliis and Bettis presented 50 Sto-Rox students with new Chromebooks.

“The natural gas and manufacturing industries are the lifeblood of southwestern Pennsylvania’s economy,” Deiuliis said. “We need to ensure our next generation has the skills to succeed in these good-paying industries after high school, and that starts with meeting essential needs, such as providing students with a working computer.”

The purchase of the Chromebooks was made possible from a generous $10,000 grant from CNX Resources to the Bus Stops Here Foundation and The Education Partnership for their joint Connecting Kids Program that launched in March 2020. The program has provided laptops or tablets to more than 1,500 Pittsburgh area students.

“While there’s much more work to do to support our region’s young people, especially those in disadvantaged communities, meeting with the Sto-Rox students and providing them with new Chromebooks was not only a great day, but an investment that will hopefully provide them and our region a better future,” Deiuliis added. “This type of targeted, local investment is how I and those I work with define social responsibility. By working with Jerome, as well as through our new mentorship Academy, I look forward to continuing to support our region’s high school students and giving them the physical and mental tools for a bright future.”

For more, click here for KDKA’s coverage of the May 4th event. And on Twitter, follow Nick at @NickDeiuliis, the Bus Stops Here Foundation at @BusStopsHereFdn, and the Education Partnership at @EduPartnership

Deiuliis Announces Formation of Mentorship Academy to Support Local, Disadvantaged Youth

(Pittsburgh, PA.) – Today, Nick Deiuliis announced the launch of an Academy focused on providing mentorship and access to greater opportunities for urban and rural youth within economically disadvantaged communities in western Pennsylvania. The Academy will help fill gaps that are leaving wide swaths of the regional population behind and discouraging access to middle-class, family-sustaining careers.

The Academy’s mission is to develop a community of young, socio-economically diverse leaders and provide them an actionable path to a life well lived and family-sustaining career opportunities in the bedrock industries of energy, manufacturing, and small business. The Academy will assist young individuals in building life skills and provide a network of supporters to help them navigate through their personal journeys.

The first class will consist of 12 high school juniors or seniors. Six will be from urban school districts in economically disadvantaged communities and six will be from rural school districts in economically disadvantaged areas (no more than one student per high school). Students who do not plan on immediately attending college will be targeted for inclusion in the program. The Academy will be constructed to encourage interaction and relationship building across young individuals who, due to diverse backgrounds, would not typically have the opportunity to meet one another.

Upon program completion, the Academy will keep in close contact with prior students and continue to mentor and assist them over time. The Academy syllabus and schedule will be posted online at nickdeiuliis.com, as well as a portal to submit nominations for attendees.

The Academy will meet for a full day each month, with a deep dive into a chosen topic and a site/field visit each session. Prep assignments will be set prior to each meeting. Planned topics include leadership, teamwork, developing a career path, good life choices, resume creation/interviewing, household budgeting/personal investing, civics, business, and religion/philosophy. A guest speaker who is a noted local authority on the day’s topic will be scheduled for each session.

Site visits will include locations in energy development, manufacturing, construction, farming/agriculture, and retail small business. These visits will be coordinated with local companies and organizations.

Deiuliis will personally fund the Academy’s start-up and first-year operating costs. There will be no cost to attending students. Initial Academy partners include CNX Resources Corporation, The Bus Stops Here Foundation, and the Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania. Additional partners will be added as the Academy calendar and program are built. Launch is planned for Summer 2021.

By the end of the annual Academy program, each student will have developed lasting relationships with their fellow students, an influential network of local leaders as supporters and resources, and a more rounded understanding of the wider region’s opportunities and strengths. Academy graduates will be asked to serve as young mentors for future students entering the academy in subsequent years.

“The next generation of our region in economically challenged communities is losing its path to the middle class, and the challenges start with education and opportunity awareness,” Deiuliis said. “These high school students are often not informed of attractive career opportunities in the region and may lack mentors to help navigate career and life decisions. That is especially true for students not going to college immediately after high school.”

“Leaders in our region who function in the real world of tangible accountability can provide guidance to young adults entering the workforce—that’s what the Academy is all about,” Deiuliis added.

Individuals and organizations interested in participating as a speaker or serving as a host are encouraged to contact academy@nickdeiuliis.com or use the form at nickdeiuliis.com/contact.

The Arts Wage a Shooting War Against STEM

Despite spending a career in technical fields and being an engineer at heart, I’ve been a lifelong fan of the arts and humanities. Love of jazz and rock music, cinema, philosophy, and literature have been constants through my life. Life without them would’ve trudged on, but it would’ve certainly been less enjoyable.

Notwithstanding my fondness, the arts have not returned the favor. In fact, an academic vanguard of the humanities today wages a hot war against science and technical fields. The war is fought across multiple fronts, from the ideological to the financial.

The stakes in this war are high for our society and nation. As rivals, including China, continue to bolster and promote STEM prowess, the U.S. consciously dilutes its STEM competency in the name of equity. If allowed to continue and left unchecked, the undermining of science and technology education will have dire consequences.

STEM to STEAM, How One Letter Makes a Big Difference

A recent trend in education is degrading the quality of crucial technical fields society relies on. That trend has been the viral transformation of STEM education into STEAM education. One little letter can make an enormous difference in a bad way.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. Society ceases to function without technology and technically competent professionals. In contrast, the humanities, represented by the “A” (for arts) in STEAM, are a want not a need. Although the humanities have a proud legacy, the country can’t run on them.

The methodical dumbing down of STEM in academia is led by the arts and administrator bureaucrats who see an opportunity to avoid necessary reform and freeload off the demand and need for critical STEM fields. Instead of rightsizing programs, staffing, and facilities for the arts and humanities to reflect the market realities of 2021, academia instead has chosen to subsidize these areas under auspices of the need to make technical programs more “well-rounded.” You see it across every level of the education journey: kindergarten, primary school, high school, college, and graduate school.

Yet STEM drives both quality of life and the competitiveness of nations. And STEM is constantly evolving at dizzying rates; every hour and dollar we can invest in these fields is necessary just to keep pace with progress.

Conversely, the more “A” we inject into STEM, the less time and attention is paid to the technical fundamentals. The STEM gap between the United States and other nations is closing in large part because we consciously water down STEM content across technical fields.

Academia Manufactures a Humanities Crisis

The humanities concluded long ago that the best way to secure more resources is to attack and drain resources from STEM. To do so, the arts needed a pretense for confrontation with STEM. Thus, everywhere you turn in academia, you hear about the “humanities crisis.” But many of us outside academia have little understanding of what humanities professors teach or what that crisis is.

Humanities are no longer traditional English literature, art, or philosophy as we might remember fondly. Today, they are quite different. What was once four years of immersion into the classics is now four years of surgical, ideological programming of students. Humanities curricula across the higher education system have been dramatically revamped by a cadre of students and faculty thought police to reflect identity politics and victimhood ideologies. Shockingly, students today can obtain an English degree from Yale without ever having to study Shakespeare.

The manufactured humanities crisis is used to invade and conquer the social sciences, such as economics or sociology. The social sciences play a pivotal role in undermining STEM curricula and disciplines. The days when the social sciences sat between a quantitative/qualitative spectrum bookended by STEM on one side and the humanities on the other side are long gone. Elements incubated in the humanities have consumed the social sciences and now wage war on STEM disciplines.

Advocates for the humanities define this manufactured crisis differently, but they agree on one thing: more. As in the critical need for more funding for humanities faculty, more tenured humanities professors, more buildings dedicated to the humanities, more humanities classes, more humanities degrees, and more resources to end the humanities crisis.

All of this “more” must come at the expense of something else since most students only need and can afford so many credits, campuses have only so much space for more buildings, and college budgets have theoretical limits. Addressing the so-called critical crisis in the humanities would have to come at the expense of STEM programs and budgets, as well as continue to drive college tuition to even more unconscionable levels. Exactly the opposite of what the economy and society are demanding.

Examples Abound

You see the manufactured humanities crisis diluting STEM everywhere these days. Increasingly, humanities departments dictate how STEM programs instruct, train, and operate. Consider the following examples (unfortunately, there are many more to choose from):

  • Stanford is the gold standard of STEM education. Yet the president of Stanford is obsessing over whether Stanford is too focused on the engineering and technology fields and is not spending enough time and money on the humanities. Much of the recent Stanford campus spending has been on new art museums, theaters, and humanities degrees.
  • Sustainability has become the ultimate liberal art and a weapon of choice for those looking to dilute STEM influence. When Yale rolled out its Sustainability Strategic Plan, its president told students to “fake it till you make it” to present an image and mirage of sustainability behaviors. The Yale president publicly encouraged students to pretend their way through sustainability theater. Yale is run for the benefit of the liberal arts and to the detriment of STEM.
  • The University of California–Berkeley, engages its non-STEM doctorate students and faculty to re-design the undergraduate general chemistry course to, “dismantle racialized, gendered, and classed hierarchies of competence in chemistry.” That’s code for less chemistry fundamentals and more rhetoric in Chem 101.
  • Carnegie Mellon University is marketing engineering programs by bragging that you don’t need to take too much math, computer, science, and engineering classes to obtain the degree. Administrators tout dual degree and minor degree programs for engineers where the second, minor degree is in the humanities. That allows a student to graduate as an engineer with less than half of his coursework in science, engineering, or math.
  • Cornell boasts over 700 courses deemed to be sustainability-focused or sustainability related. The Big Red of the Ivy League asserts that over 25% of their faculty engages in some form of sustainability research. The sustainability academic complex means less traditional STEM curricula, fewer and lower-quality STEM faculty, diluted quality of graduates in STEM disciplines, and older STEM facilities.
  • Botany is no longer about crop science or cell biology. Evergreen State College in Washington state offers a course titled “Botany: Plants and People,” where students learn about how they can enjoy more socially just and sustainable relations with plants.
  • A Smith College mathematics professor developed the course “Inequalities: Numbers and Justice,” which aims to show how mathematics and statistics are used to promote racial capitalism, climate change, and a portfolio of other evils.
  • Medical schools are not immune to STEM dilution. The American College of Physicians (ACP) advocates on a range on non-medical topics, including gun control and climate change. The ACP lobbies medical schools to incorporate these non-medical topics and positions into the curricula. With only so many hours of instruction, simple math dictates more ideology in the curricula results in less scientific instruction.

What’s Ultimately at Stake

The most obvious forms of damage being done via the dilution of STEM are a less prepared workforce and a weaker nation competing across an unforgiving geopolitical map. But there is another insidious factor at work when eroding, weakening, and supplanting STEM.

Throughout history, the scientific community has been the most consistent, steadfast bulwark to protect against and resist tyranny, especially tyranny of thought. The more closed-minded academia becomes, the more ideologically rigid the campus culture becomes, the less tolerant students and faculty are of free thought, and the less likely leaders in STEM fields will speak up and rebut unenlightened oppression.

What better way for those wishing to eradicate the greatest threat to suppression of free thinking than to hinder STEM? Instead of science checking politics, politics checks science.

It is time for STEM to stand up and defend itself.

House of Life of Pittsburgh: Battling Society’s Toughest Challenges

Everyone, from politicians to giant corporations, talks the talk of social justice and moral imperatives. So, it’s rare to find those who actually walk the walk by delivering tangible results to improve society in a meaningful way. I’ve stumbled across one of those who walks the walk, an inspiring group you will not want to forget: House of Life of Pittsburgh (HLP).

A Small Few Making a Huge Difference

Lou Gentile is a friend and one of the driving forces behind HLP. Lou is one of the most gracious human beings I know, but his kindness and pleasant demeanor belie a steely resolve you do not want to test. He was highly decorated as a law enforcement officer, spending decades working undercover in the narcotics and organized crime divisions of various state agencies. Today, Lou runs a private security firm he founded and teaches at Pitt and Duquesne. He’s dealt up close and personally with the challenges of crime, incarceration, and ex-convict struggles upon release.

Lou doesn’t just care or simply talk about making a difference; he acts.

A number of years ago, he teamed up with a small group of individuals, consisting of a criminal justice academic and a group of formerly incarcerated men who did their time (one serving nearly 50 years in prison and two serving almost 40 years in jail) and turned their lives around through education and discipline. This group committed to make a difference in criminal justice reform.

That was the genesis of the creation of HLP. The founders and leadership of HLP know the criminal justice system and lived on both sides of “the wall.” It’s not an issue in the abstract for them; it’s real life.

HLP’s Twin Objectives

Success in this effort hinges on achieving two objectives.

The first is to establish, reinforce, and grow higher education opportunity in prison populations. I know what you’re thinking, because initially I thought the same thing: why in the world do we need to spend taxpayer money to send the incarcerated to college?

Upon reflection, the answer is quite simple and rational. Society suffers when an individual commits a serious crime, is incarcerated, and then is released to the streets to commit another crime and end up back in prison. That’s another victim of another crime, another fractured family, a local community subjected to increased strife, a criminal justice system further strained, more government expenditure, and less tax revenue. We all lose in this revolving door of repeat offenders, not just the person recommitting the crime.

A pathway designed to make productive use of an inmate’s time while serving a sentence by taking up coursework toward a degree drastically improves the chances of a positive outcome for both inmate and society upon eventual release. Data show that the recidivism (i.e., when a prior incarcerated commits another crime after release) rate for inmates who did not graduate from college is at an alarming 80 percent while the recidivism rate for incarcerated who graduated from college is only 11 percent.

Recidivism is a lingering and growing cost to society and devastating to the individual offender, new victim, and their families. Substantially reducing America’s recidivism rate is a massive value creator for society. HLP understands this, and its leadership experienced its benefits firsthand.

The second objective of HLP is to establish an infrastructure and support system to efficiently integrate released inmates into society. This is straightforward bricks and mortar: modest homes close to public transportation and jobs, where a small group of “returning citizens” live while under supervision. An added benefit would be realized by HLP acquiring neglected buildings in need of repair, upgrading them, and then putting them to good use.

Help House of Life of Pittsburgh Make a Difference

Lou and his team, the catalysts for HLP, are living proof of how education and well-thought-out post-incarceration integration change lives. Turning HLP loose will create a multiplier effect that will benefit individuals, families, economically disadvantaged communities, free enterprise, and society.

The hard work has been done. These doers set the vision. They drew the blueprint. They created the vehicle in HLP. It’s time for HLP to realize its full potential.

Now it’s simply a matter of money. Join me in supporting this noble endeavor.

To learn more, contact Lou Gentile at lgentile@csiinvestigators.com. To make a tax-deductible donation, please send a check payable to “House of Life of Pittsburgh” and mail it to:

House of Life of Pittsburgh
c/o Lou Gentile
181 Clearview St.
Beaver Falls, PA 15010