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.

One-Hit Wonders

The Far Middle episode 101 begins the next chapter in sports dedications as the series enters the triple digits. To mark episode 101’s April 26 release date, Nick dedicates the episode to those pitchers who’ve thrown one-hitters. He looks back on two notable one-hitters from today in 1980 by “Lefty” and in 1990 by “The Ryan Express.”

Nick underscores the importance of tracking data and statistics of baseball players as he then tosses a change up and moves into the efficacy—or lack thereof—of public education. Like ball players, he comments on the importance of tracking students; highlighting a recent Stanford University and Associated Press study that found more than 240,000 students living in 21 states and the District of Columbia have gone missing since the start of the pandemic. Nick suggests it might be time for wholesale change for the public education lineup, front office, and ownership.

Staying on the topic of data and statistics, Nick examines two arenas where statistics are telling an interesting, albeit unsettling, story. In California, the state’s precipitous drop in personal income tax revenue signals difficult decisions loom for the Golden State. And nationally, America’s $31 trillion (and climbing) national debt, its balance sheet, and overall budgetary health has put the nation and economy on a course towards unprecedented and unchartered waters. The data are all staring us in the face, as easy to read as baseball box scores.

Next, Nick connects the discussion of statistics, math, government finances, and ill-advised policies to what’s happening in France, and how that might be a harbinger of things to come in the U.S. Nick delves into President Macron’s efforts to reform French pension laws, which isn’t as simple as it appears on the surface and explains why France’s pension situation is going to get much worse pretty quickly.

Returning to the U.S., Nick revisits the gloomy fiscal forecast that has more bad weather on the way. Those storms are government’s terrifying off-balance sheet liabilities and commitments of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. When you add it all up, the financial reality our nation is facing is putting us in a serious predicament. Nick foresees us heading toward to a level of government austerity the likes of which we’ve never seen.

Nick closes by connecting back to the episode’s release date of April 26, and reflects on the valor and inspiring story of Medal of Honor recipient Michael Estocin. Estocin represents the best America has to offer and the motivation to do the hard work that lies ahead.