The Truth of the Matter

The Far Middle episode 133 is a fascinating series of connections on the nobility of enterprise and work, capitalism and individual choice, and the associated threats these face in today’s global economy.

The discussion begins in Iowa for this episode’s sports dedication, which goes to a great American who was a veteran, the 1939 Heisman Trophy winner, and the namesake of the University of Iowa’s football stadium. That individual? Nile Kinnick. Reflecting on Kinnick’s remarkable life, albeit cut too short at age 24, Nick comments that “he made the most of every opportunity and moment in his life, something to celebrate for sure.”

Shifting from sports, Nick begins this week’s connections with a quote from Machiavelli’s The Prince: “As my intention is to write something useful for discerning minds, I find it more fitting to seek the truth of the matter, rather than the imaginary conceptions. Many have imagined republics and principalities that have never been seen or heard of.”

Nick notes this line from The Prince is a theme and approach that he aims to mimic in his efforts such as The Far Middle and his book Precipice: “to sort of peel back the optics and veneer of image, that so many policies and movements fixate upon, and instead to focus on exposing the realities, and the truth, as in clinical, rational, scientific or mathematical truth, not some squishy definition or version of the truth.” 

Alongside Machiavelli, a host of thought leaders join the conversation, including Pope John Paul II, Ayn Rand, and Notre Dame Professor Carter Snead. A few of this installment’s key takeaways from Nick:

  • Capitalism isn’t broken. What’s broken is how the free market has evolved into a controlled market for the favored class, or the one percent, through policy and machinations between the bureaucrat, the political leader, and the special interest.
  • In a free market, every individual can display their morals with their actions and decisions; it’s a platform for the self, the individual, to assert their convictions with every decision made.
  • There’s a problem with finding and securing noble, meaningful work these days, as such work has vanished. It’s rare and it’s hard to find. Why? Most of it was purposely outsourced to our adversary, China, via globalization driven by the elite and expert class. American manufacturing was handed over to China so America could work effortlessly in the knowledge economy. This move is the biggest strategic blunder since the World War Two era and its damage will continue to lay wake.
  • Although the expert political class might just be waking up to the threat of China, don’t be fooled into thinking that corporate America has awakened to the threat.
  • Germany’s economy and fiscal state is a warning sign to America. Following a string of poor policy choices, Germany has downshifted from the engine of Europe a decade ago to now idling as the sick man of Europe.
In closing, Nick wishes a happy birthday to guitarist and R.E.M. co-founder Peter Buck, and quotes a line from R.E.M.’s “Finest Worksong,” off their album Document: “Take your instinct by the reins; You’re better best to rearrange; What we want and what we need; Has been confused, been confused.”

Radical Transparency

Episode 132 marks a special installment of The Far Middle as Nick spotlights CNX Resources’ historic and innovative Radical Transparency initiative. But before dropping the puck on the Radical Transparency discussion, Nick pays tribute to the legendary Montreal Forum in this episode’s opening sports dedication.

The Forum opened its doors 99 years ago this week, and “was constructed in 159 days, can you believe that,” says Nick. “It would take longer today to draft the permit request for such a venue, and the actual permit review and approval process might not take 159 days, but instead 159 months.” Nick reflects on the property’s history, in particular its seven decades as home to the Montreal Canadiens, as well as other notable hosted events.

“What made the Forum in Montreal a shrine,” asks Nick. “Doers building things to last. Seeing those things they built thrive and make history of their own. And sprinkling in fits and starts of innovation and continuous improvement.” With that observation, Nick connects to CNX’s new Radical Transparency initiative.

Introduced this month on November 2nd alongside Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, Radical Transparency is a “partnership and agreement that’s going to move the state of the art forward to a higher and better place when it comes to how responsible manufacturing of domestic energy and natural gas is performed,” explains Nick.

Nick looks back on how a data reporting challenge served as the impetus for Radical Transparency. That challenge drove CNX’s performance to a better place as a new regulatory reporting group was established alongside new data and IT platforms. Through those improvements and investments, the foundation was laid for Radical Transparency.

The Radical Transparency website is now live at providing background and contextual information about CNX’s operations and development process.

As opposed to policy driven by out-of-touch ideology or mysterious and unknown data (recalling episode 124 on the recent University of Pittsburgh’s natural gas studies), Radical Transparency will help craft policy based “on data, and the rational, and the known,” says Nick.

Revisiting the initiative’s announcement earlier this month, Nick highlights that extraordinary day alongside many community leaders, including Governor Shapiro, Pennsylvania Environmental Council President Davitt Woodwell, and Boilermakers Local 154 Business Agent Shawn Steffee. Those assembled were “a coalition of the willing, a coalition of doers wanting to get something done on advancing the state of the art.” Nick underscores that this is just the start of Radical Transparency and now the real work begins to make it an engine for continuous improvement.

In closing, Nick connects back to the Montreal Forum and the band Rush who played the venue several times. “The trio of Rush is the greatest band pound for pound in the history of rock,” argues Nick. “They weren’t afraid to break rock norms through the years to innovate, much like what we’re trying to do today with Radical Transparency.” Listen as Nick concludes with a few interesting factoids from the band’s Exit… Stage Left album.


As family and friends gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, The Far Middle episode 131 examines the numerous reasons Americans have to be thankful.

Before delving into the episode’s connections, Nick offers a fitting sports dedication this Thanksgiving eve: the wild NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins from Thanksgiving Day back in 1993.

This episode’s discussion follows a recent evening Nick spent in Philadelphia, assessing America’s opportunities and challenges with a group of businesspeople and thought leaders. Nick explains the opportunity stemmed from an invitation to discuss his advocacy efforts, including The Far Middle, his book Precipice, and more broadly the state of doers in America today.

“Value creators have much to be thankful for today in America, in places like Pennsylvania, and in cities like Philadelphia,” says Nick. “But there’s also a lot to be concerned about when one looks to the future and contemplates troubles, trends, and developments.”

Stressing the importance of America’s middle class, Nick calls it “the lifeblood of so much of free enterprise and capitalism and the American dream and the western republican democracy way… the middle class is something to be thankful for today and also something to be worried about.”

Nick goes on to address other topics of that recent Philadelphia conversation, including: the forgotten man and woman—a motivator for all; the definition of Liberal versus Leftist; his essay on whether America needs a third party; and, the concept of “institutionalizing.”

As the connections conclude, Nick summarizes the many reasons Americans have to be optimistic and thankful, juxtaposed to related reasons for concern and worry.

And in a somber closing, Nick goes back 60 years ago today, November 22, to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Nick recounts growing up and adults saying how they would never forget where they were on November 22, 1963. “That feeling would unfortunately be experienced by the next generation when September 11th rolled around in 2001,” says Nick. “Then we ended up knowing what it felt like. Let’s hope our kids don’t get to experience the same thing.”

Wishing all the constant listeners health and happiness this Thanksgiving!

The Hits Keep on Coming

The Far Middle episode 130 begins by going back 77 years ago today, to November 15, 1946, when Ted Williams earned his first American League MVP award, which he would earn again in 1949. “Teddy Ballgame” serves as this episode’s sports dedication.

Nick looks back at the awesomeness that was Ted Williams, from the Hall of Famer’s accomplishments on the diamond (nineteen-time All-Star, two-time Triple Crown, the last to hit .400 in a season, the list continues) to his military service off the field during World War II and the Korean War. Nick notes that he’s the only Hall of Famer to have served in two wars. To put it simply, Ted Williams was, “The greatest hitter that ever played the game, a true individual in every sense of the word, and one of the greatest Americans,” says Nick.

Williams made hitting a science. Indeed, he wrote a book on it, The Science of Hitting. In true Far Middle fashion, science then continues as a recurring theme across this episode’s connections.

Those connections begin with a bit of political science and geopolitics in terms of what people in prominent positions often say or backtrack from once said, highlighting JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon’s comments regarding communism (and indirectly China) as one recent example.

On the topic of China, Nick calls out Climate Czar John Kerry for doing everything in his unelected power to destroy domestic energy and manufacturing jobs, while helping bolster the Chinese workforce in the “interest of tackling climate change.”

The episode’s lineup delivers back-to-back-to-back hits on topics ranging from America and the West’s policies on climate and energy, and the resulting heavy price being paid by the developed and developing world; to, examining science as a philosophy that challenges consensus, versus science as an institution driven by ideology.

And with college basketball season having tipped off, Nick heads to Durham, NC, to close out the episode. Nick discusses Duke and Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final game as an example of how much of the dysfunction discussed in this installment’s connections is rooted in academia.

“Do you think our rivals in China are focusing on the same things that our supposed best and brightest at Duke are focused on,” asks Nick; concluding that instead of treating American academia as the authority on all things policy and science-related, we should rather be demanding academia’s reform.

Notes from the Far Middle: The great Ted Williams was born on August 30, 1918, and was considered for dedication this past August 30th for the release of episode 119. However, legendary Boston Celtics Coach and Executive “Red” Auerbach earned the episode’s honors. As Far Middle connections are a constant, Coach K turned down an opportunity to join the Celtics (and Auerbach) as coach in 1990. He’d go on to win five NCAA Championships, second only in all-time wins to UCLA Coach John Wooden’s ten-championship tally, whose greatness was recognized in episode 121.

The Real-World Scoreboard

The Far Middle episode 129 is dedicated to boxing great Billy Conn, better known as “The Pittsburgh Kid.” Nick delves into Conn’s career which spanned the 1930s and 1940s—a time when boxing rivaled baseball as America’s most popular sport.

Nick highlights Conn’s bouts and relationship with Joe Lewis, in particular their legendary match from June 18, 1941, when Conn attempted to become the first World Light Heavyweight Champion to win the World Heavyweight Championship. For more on Conn, Nick recommends the Sports Illustrated article, “The Boxer and the Blonde.”

The outcome of a boxing match is decided either by knockout or by the judges. “Scoring by judges is often subjective,” says Nick. “But you always have the eye test and objective data to compare to the official decision in both boxing and in life.” From there the episode’s connections begin—linked under the theme of the real-world scoreboard and commonsense eye test, versus the manufactured optics of the elite and expert classes.

Nick highlights several examples revealing how the divide between reality and manufactured optics sits in plain sight for all to see.

The state of America’s cities begins the conversation, a topic regularly addressed by Nick and at length in Precipice. “Our cities are sick, and the decisions urban leadership are making on behalf of urban America is making us sicker,” says Nick, highlighting San Francisco’s new central subway, Pawtucket’s under-construction professional soccer stadium, and Chicago’s structural deficit.

Ultimately, poor decisions from urban leaders and their ensuing costs will result in taxpayers footing the bill.

Next, Nick turns to global energy and climate policy. “The expert judges assured us that if we pour trillions of dollars into the energy transition, carbon use and carbon dioxide emissions would plummet, saving the globe.” However, despite all the unprecedented energy transition spending, carbon emissions tick up with rising energy consumption, but so too does GDP growth, longer life expectancies, and quality of life.

“Based on the scorecard, ask yourself what passes the eye and the smell test,” says Nick. “Are climate change and global warming the biggest threats to the U.S. economy, or do they pale in comparison to things like China, nuclear proliferation, technology running amok, banking failures, and so on. It’s the elite optics versus real-world scoring constant listeners.”

Like Conn and Lewis, the punches continue as Nick examines: the causes resulting in the cost of food and food inflation both domestically and across the globe; attitudes towards the state of America’s economy, and whether things are great (manufactured optics) or do we have a fiscal crisis (reality); experts’ geopolitical missteps on Russia and Ukraine; and, a CIA whistleblower alleging the agency rigged a report on the origins of COVID-19 to clear China’s name.

In closing, Nick wishes a happy birthday to the late Milton Bradley and foreshadows a top-ten list of his favorite board games (and includes a few likely to make the list).