Always Seeking

The Far Middle episode 106 release date of May 31 coincides with the anniversary of artist Louise Bourgeois’ 2010 passing, as well as the 80th birthday of football great and pop culture icon, Joe Namath. Nick looks back on Broadway Joe’s western Pennsylvania roots, college and pro football accomplishments, and post-football showbiz career as the Super Bowl III MVP is featured for this installment’s dedication.

As the episode’s connections begin, Nick explores a recent column on America’s minimum wage by Duke University Professor Michael Munger. Munger puts into surprising context the percentage of U.S. workers who earn the minimum wage and where that puts them in the world income distribution. “Most Americans including myself, are a bit clueless on fundamental, economic matters,” says Nick after learning that fewer than 2 percent of U.S. workers earn the minimum wage, which places them in the top 15 of the world income distribution.

After discussing the clear benefits of capitalism and a free market versus those systems that focus on value re-appropriation, Nick connects economic power and strength to the economic, military, and geopolitical rivalry between America and China. Specifically, Nick analyzes a speech from April by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on the U.S. – China economic relationship.

“Any interconnections economically between ‘us and them,’ to quote a Pink Floyd song, should not be given the benefit of the doubt and instead should undergo a thorough analysis and diligence to pass muster under the lens of national security interests,” says Nick. “And if we perform such an analysis, guess what? Most, much of those economic ties between China and the United States, they would be viewed as destructive to U.S. interests and would need to go.

“What I see is that a drastic lessening of current economic ties between the West and China would not be disastrous for the West and the United States as Dr. Yellen indicates, but it would be advantageous and helpful to our interests. It would make the West stronger, and this is coming from a free trade and capitalism advocate.”

Continuing off Secretary Yellen’s remarks, Nick revisits a frequent Far Middle theme: how Western climate change policies strengthen China, and work against America’s economic, military, and geopolitical interests. Nick then takes the conversation into the European/U.S. trade war over subsidies for wind, solar, and electric vehicles. “Expect the EU to double down on their level of subsidy in the energy transition, if they can afford it,” says Nick.

Staying on the energy transition, Nick lays out the big three math problems with EV mandates and subsidy. “Climate change policies are being exposed as the commandments of an ideological religion that rejects science.”

In closing, Nick reflects on the career of jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal, a Pittsburgh native and “one of the pioneers of the cool jazz movement.” While we lost Ahmad this past April, his work and inspiration live on. Add At the Pershing to your Spotify playlist and continue seeking.

The Free Exploring Mind

The Far Middle episode 105 falls between Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day—presenting an opportunity to clarify the differences between these military observances, as well as Veteran’s Day.

Nick sets the stage by reminding listeners that The Far Middle embodies literary great John Steinbeck’s view that “the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world.”

As Memorial Day nears and the start of summer, Nick links this episode’s sports dedication to the boys of summer and a great sports question: If you could attend one game from any sport, from any era, which game would it be for each sport and why? For baseball, Nick’s choice would be going back 95 years today to watch the Yankees take on the A’s at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. Listen as Nick runs down the legends that were featured in the game’s lineup cards—a game that was a true Field of Dreams.

Beginning this week’s connections, Nick moves from self-made greats like Gehrig and Ruth (who played in that May 1928 classic) to President Abraham Lincoln who “stated numerous times that there’s no more trustworthy person than an individual who rose from poverty because they respected what honestly was earned,” explains Nick.

Delving into Civics 101, Nick describes the dereliction of duty by our elected Congress today where vague/cloudy/general laws are passed, which then bolster the size and power of the administrative state as they’re given wide latitude to interpret the law. It’s a devious scheme where politicians enjoy plausible deniability by allowing bureaucrats to unravel vague laws. Nick argues that Congress’ dereliction of duty to lead on straightforward statutes has been the single-biggest contributor to government’s growth and skyrocketing debt—a thesis you can read more about in Precipice.

Continuing, Nick asks what would happen if this dereliction of duty by the elected Congress, along with a willing/usurping of legislative power by the administrative state, was coupled with a president who was of Leftist leaning. The answer is what’s happening with the current Administration. Nick presents a host of examples where the bureaucratic state is usurping congressional power, thereby killing the private sector, free enterprise, meritocracy, capitalism, and individual achievement.

Next, Nick explores a passage by Francis Fukuyama, observing, “how eerily similar today’s United States feels and looks compared to Fukuyama’s description of a failing society.” He proceeds to recall the Greek concept of thymos, discussed in episode 97, and sees a system in America today that is increasingly fixated on squelching thymos both individually and as a society.

In closing, Nick returns to the topic of summer, reflecting on both the Grease soundtrack and Van Halen’s album 5150. These albums were in many ways the soundtracks to Nick’s respective 1978 and 1986 summers. Whether you’re sittin’ home tonight or out until the mornin’ light, hope you enjoy episode 105!

Birds and Rabbit Holes

The Far Middle episode 104 is dedicated to former Major League Baseball pitcher Mark “The Bird” Fidrych who made his first Major League start this week back in 1976. Nick reflects on The Brid’s career, particularly his dominating 1976 all-star season, before drawing a Far Middle connection to the healthcare industry.

Nick presents some “brutal math” demonstrating how the laziness in American healthcare efficacy is stacking up to a nearly infinite height of waste, cumulatively totaling trillions of dollars. “Who knows how many lives are negatively impacted by a healthcare system that is less efficient than it could or should be,” says Nick. He goes on to discuss America’s out-of-control healthcare costs coupled with poor health outcomes for patients, and how our healthcare system has morphed from a competitive meritocracy to an unaccountable oligopoly.

Next, Nick tackles the religion of the Left infiltrating government and academia. “If you seize the mindset of government and academia you position the ideology to play the long game and start to slowly subsume all other areas of commerce and culture and societal norms,” says Nick. “And you can start to grind away at, materially evolving and permanently altering, something like the healthcare industry as well as all kinds of other Industries and institutions.” Nick proceeds to profile The Fabian Society and Frankfurt School. 

One of the founding members of The Fabian Society was playwright George Bernard Shaw. Nick offers a few of Shaw’s assessments of historical tyrants representing the extreme left and right—further evidence of how the ends of the ideological spectrums wrap around to meet one another.

The interesting rabbit holes of episode 104 wind down with a discussion on Aesop’s Fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” as well as poet George Murray’s version, “The Hare and the Tortoise.” In Murray’s version, the hare wakes up in time to win the race. Nick says the Murray ending is the version we need if you like individual rights, capitalism, the free market, and if you want them to survive the onslaught of the Left. “It’s time to wake up because the race is almost won by the wrong side.”

Nick closes by noting this past May 15 was ZZ Top Day, saluting guitarist Billy Gibbons, one of Nick’s top ten rock guitarists. What are Nick’s favorite ZZ Top single and album? Give a listen!

Outsized Impacts

The uniqueness of The Far Middle shines in episode 103. In under 30 minutes, Nick covers topics spanning World Donkey Day to sports and from World War II to artificial intelligence.

After kicking things off with a little “donkey talk,” Nick dedicates the episode to his Mount Rushmore of the most iconic sports photos, as well as offers a few honorable mentions. The superfecta of legendary pictures includes Ray Lussier’s photograph of Bobby Orr’s overtime goal in game four of the 1970 Stanley Cup finals, which took place 52 years ago today.

Next, Nick talks historical versus modern-day geopolitical irony, highlighting that Japan was the most anti-communist nation during World War II. However, it was their aggression into China that gave rise to the Chinese Communist Party, leading to the CCP prowling the planet today. “Let’s hope that the mistakes and the ironies of World War II don’t lead to a World War III,” says Nick.

Staying in present day, Nick examines outsized impacts in the capital markets. He points out that the market cap weights of Apple and Microsoft, which are in the S&P 500, are double the weights of the entire energy and materials sectors in the S&P 500 combined, “and that’s amazing.” Nick says this defies logic, and it’s “a blaring, flashing warning light that something is very wrong with the capital markets and key indices like the S&P.”

Continuing on the topic of the energy transition, Nick homes in on the OECD, who’s “starting to figure out there are a plethora of massively large challenges facing the unimaginable scale up its envisioned for wind and solar and electric vehicles across the planet.” He highlights six truths on the energy transition, several of which should be familiar to constant listeners.

Nick then pivots to the topic of artificial intelligence, asking several thought-provoking questions, and categorizing his views into three areas: AI’s opportunities, risks, and the threat of government intervention in the field.

Connecting artificial intelligence to genuine intelligence, Nick notes the quote by Freddie Mercury: “We are in the golden age of music. There will be a time when technology becomes so advanced that we’ll rely on them to make music rather than raw talent. Music will lose its soul.” Nick examines who “them” are, and how that word is defined will again have outsized impacts on the future of society.

Nick closes with a unique connection from Freddie Mercury to the “Piano Man,” welcoming Mr. Billy Joel to the stage (who coincidentally celebrated his 74th birthday yesterday). If it’s been a while, give a listen to Joel’s 52nd Street—what are Nick’s two favorite tracks from the album? Press play on this episode!

Track Records

As The Far Middle episode 102 lands between National Teachers Day and National Nurses Day, Nick tips off the episode offering his appreciation to both professions before jumping into this week’s dedication: Boston Celtics all-time leading scorer, John Havlicek. Last week, April 25, marked the four-year anniversary of the icon’s passing. Nick celebrates “Hondo’s” career and how he revolutionized the pro game, epitomizing the sixth man.

After reviewing the track record of Havlicek, Nick proceeds to examine the track record of the Federal Reserve over the past 25 years and where it’s placed the American economy. “What’s amazing, is how bad the Fed’s crystal ball has been at the most crucial of moments,” says Nick. He adds that as government regulation and intervention via Fed policy gets more invasive and pervasive, it’s making markets more volatile.

Moving from the track record of the Fed, Nick looks at where the track record ends and where future predictions begin in the world of energy demand and carbon emissions. Nick calls out two competing projections: net zero carbon pledges on one hand, with energy demand growing globally for the foreseeable future on the other. Nick says these projections can’t both be true, and we know which one is false.

“Despite the zero carbon by 2050 myth being busted by science and reality, the policy insanity with respect to that, it marches on,” says Nick, taking the conversation to the Empire State where state lawmakers are looking to ban natural gas hookups in new buildings. Should the ban be enacted, Nick says it’ll chop off whatever remaining economic activity is left in New York.

“Blind adherence to ideology at the expense of logic and science, it exacts a heavy toll and not just when it comes to energy policy,” says Nick. We’re seeing the same price being paid in the arena of geopolitics and foreign affairs. Nick proceeds to discuss the current administration’s twisted definition of democracy, that being a nation who subscribes to the correct ideology. “Our government would rather have an ally nation not hold democratic elections but back progressive values, instead of an ally holding open fair elections that doesn’t back progressive values. That’s not supporting democracy.”

Next, Nick recounts a recent evening in Waynesburg, Pa., with VFW Post 4793. Nick says he’s all-in with supporting the region’s veterans through VFW and American Legions; read more about the evening with Post 4793 at And staying on the topics of the military and geopolitics, Nick examines the Battle of the Coral Sea as we mark the Battle’s 81st anniversary. “For me, the key to this Battle is that it was the first time the Japanese were turned back since the start of the war,” says Nick and adds that it had implications for the Battle of Midway. And for the episode’s final connection, Nick highlights Jason Robards, the acclaimed actor who also served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.