The Feds Want To Go Into Matchmaking Business

by John Fund
Forty Million MMA Fans May See Mixed Marital Arts Federalized

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a great American success story. Almost unknown 15 years ago, it is now the fastest growing sport in America. Fans love seeing a full-contact combat sport in which fighters use martial arts techniques, but no weapons.  MMA has grown to nearly rival tennis or golf in the value of its sponsorships and now has an audience of some 40 million people, mostly on pay-per-view.

But like all successful startups it has now attracted the unwanted attention of Washington D.C., where some in Congress would like to regulate the sport and impose federal control over it. A hearing on the subject will be held on the issue tomorrow morning in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Markwayne Mullin, who was once a part-time MMA fighter, is now a Republican member of the House from Oklahoma. He has taken upon himself to sponsor legislation he says will combat widespread abuse of MMA fighters, some of whom he says are victims of exploitation and matches that have rigged outcomes.

But his cure is likely to be worse than the ills he purports to fight. The bill would enlist government bureaucrats to rank fighters and conduct the matchmaking that is now done by the private sector.

Lawrence Epstein is the Chief Operating Officer of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the promoting organization that now dominates MMA. He says “we don’t oppose thoughtful federal regulation if it’s going to improve the health and safety of MMA athletes and strengthen the sport. The Mullin bill does neither.”  Right now UFC dominates the field with 523 fighters under its umbrella along with Viacom-owned Bellator, which has about 120 fighters.  Both companies point out they are currently regulated by state boxing commissions on health and safety issues.

Most of Rep. Mullin’s conservative colleagues in Congress and outside conservative groups believe he is seeking a federal solution for what should remain a state and industry concern.  “Regulators throughout the U.S. have adopted unified rues of MMA which ensures fair fights, as well as predictable, transparent and fair regulatory treatment,”  reads a letter sent to members of Congress earlier this year by the heads of 20 major conservative groups, including  Morton Blackwell of the Leadership Institute and Matt Schlapp of the American Conservative Union. 

Tomorrow’s hearing is largely a vanity project for its legislative promoters because the legislation has no chance of being adopted by Congress before it closes its business later this month.  As for the next Congress, the odds of its becoming law look bleak. Dana White, the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, is an avid supporter of Donald Trump and was even invited to speak by The Donald to the Republican convention in Cleveland this year.

Given Donald Trump’s vow to kill or scale back burdensome regulations it would be passing strange for him to sign a bill making the federal government a partner in deciding how MMA matches are organized. This is one set of fights the federal government should stay out of. The Mullin bill looks like it’s headed for a smackdown. 

French Senate Bans Posting of Pro-Life Information Online

by Alexandra DeSanctis

The French Senate today adopted a bill criminalizing the posting of pro-life information online, a measure that was passed by the French National Assembly just last week. Violators face a maximum of two years in prison and over $30,000 in fines. The measure makes it a crime for pro-life individuals or activists to obstruct a woman’s lawful decision to have an abortion, or to cause her guilt after the fact. Its text criminalizes:

the act of preventing or trying to prevent to practice or learn about an abortion or prior acts . . . by any means, including by disseminating or transmitting electronically or online, allegations, statements looking to intentionally mislead, as a deterrent, the characteristics or the medical consequences of a voluntary interruption pregnancy.

Furthermore, the bill defines obstruction not only as the physical effort to block an abortion clinic, for example, but also “psychological obstacles,” which it defines as:

moral and psychological pressure, threats or intimidation against medical and non-medical working in these institutions, women from there suffer or learn about an abortion or the environment of the past.

The translation of these portions of the bill are somewhat rough, but many analysts agree that the bill will be interpreted to criminalize any person or website that posts information regarding alternatives to abortion, or even that espouses the Christian belief that the church considers abortion to be immoral.

During the debate over the bill, Senator Francoise Laborde, a member of the Radical Party of the Left, called pro-life websites “horrors and lies” and announced his intention to prevent them from operating at all. When members of the governing body objected to the bill’s strong wording, the text was altered to punish “misinformation,” giving the appearance that pro-life activism might still be permissible as long as it wasn’t inaccurate.

However, Gregor Puppinck, director of the European Centre for Law and Justice, said this slight change in language won’t actually improve the plight of pro-life activists because the law still bans moral and psychological pressure, which can be used to justify any number of accusations from those on the pro-abortion side. This law might even interfere with clergy members’ ability to articulate church teaching if their faith is morally opposed to abortion.

This news comes in the wake of another recent controversy, in which the French State Council banned an ad depicting children with Down syndrome talking about their happy lives, meant to appeal to mothers of children with the same condition. The council ruled that the video could not air on French television because the children’s smiles would “disturb the conscience of women who had lawfully made different personal life choices” — in other words, because seeing them happy would upset women who had aborted their own Down syndrome children.

House Republicans Attempt to Expedite Mattis’s Secretary of Defense Confirmation

by Austin Yack

On Tuesday, Kentucky representative Hal Rogers introduced a short-term spending bill to fund the government through April 28. And, despite warnings from minority leader Pelosi, House Republicans inserted a clause that expedites the confirmation process of former general James Mattis, whom President-elect Donald Trump has nominated to be his Secretary of Defense.

Mattis must receive a congressional waiver before he can head to the Pentagon. A 1947 statute, designed to maintain civilian control of the military, prohibits defense secretaries from serving within seven years of their nomination (a term that was originally ten years before the statute was modified in 2008). Mattis retired from the military in 2013.

According to Politico,

The procedure for Mattis’ waiver in the spending bill would limit debate in the Senate over the matter to 10 hours and require 60 votes for passage. The waiver legislation itself can be introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) within the first 30 days of the new Congress. That bill would be referred to McCain’s committee, and if it was not acted on within five days would go directly to the Senate floor.

In order to avoid a government shutdown, Congress must pass the spending bill by December 9.

Will Hollywood Tire of Social Justice Warriors?

by David French

Stupid controversy number one: Some people are offended by this trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2:

What’s the problem? Zoe Saldana’s character, Gamora, doesn’t actually speak in the trailer. And unless speaking parts are fairly allocated in two-minute trailers, the sexists have won:

Basically, Gamora’s job is to be The Girl. The trailer introduces a new female character (Mantis, played by Pom Klementieff), but she’s just there to highlight Star-Lord’s feelings for Gamora in a scene where two male characters get to be funny while Gamora remains silent.

This is disappointing on a couple of fronts. When the first Guardians movie came out, retailers were criticized for stocking merchandise for the male characters but not Gamora, prompting the #WheresGamora hashtag. Then a couple of months ago, writer/director James Gunn touted his feminist vision for Vol. 2, saying it would go beyond just passing the Bechdel Test.

The Bechdel test, for those wondering, asks whether movies feature two named female characters talking to each other about something besides a man.

Stupid controversy number two: Some people are offended that a Chinese director cast Matt Damon as a European mercenary in a Chinese-made fantasy film about monsters attacking the Great Wall of China. Yep, that’s what the movie’s about. Here’s the trailer:

The alleged problem, you see, is “whitewashing” — casting a white actor in a role that should go to a person of color. But I’m confused, where is it written that Chinese soldiers wouldn’t welcome the help of a European mercenary when confronting vicious monsters who threaten to destroy the world? Brave Chinese locking arms with brave Europeans to save the world? Sounds diverse to me.

I wonder how long even liberal Hollywood will tolerate the constant scrutiny on their acting, directing, and editing choices. How long will they lurch from stupid controversy to stupid controversy, patiently explaining their liberal bona fides before they decide it’s not worth it? In social justice Hollywood, the art is secondary to the rules, and the rules change without notice according to the latest radical fashion. This mindset is commercially damaging, artistically dreary, and ultimately deadly dull. If Matt Damon is calling social justice tantrums ”clickbait,” then they’ve already started to lose. 


Do Politicians Believe the Stuff They Write in Their Press Releases?

by Veronique de Rugy

I came across this press release from Representative Charlie Dent’s office yesterday congratulating incoming Appropriations Committee chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey. This passage struck me as funny:

Rep. Dent, a strong proponent of the regular order budget process, is confident that Congressman Frelinghuysen will do his utmost to steer vital spending legislation through the Committee with the same alacrity and legislative mastery as the Appropriations Committee’s most recent Chair, Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky.

A “strong proponent of the regular order budget process”? Representative Dent is the lawmaker who recently managed to sneak in an amendment that made a joke of regular order and Speaker Paul Ryan’s promise that the old ways of doing business — e.g., violating House rules and allowing problematic provisions to be snuck through without a vote and attached to a funding bill — were over. The Dent amendment, which has a brother in the Senate thanks to Senator Lindsey Graham, would allow for a change in the law to reduce the Ex-Im Bank’s quorum requirement so that the agency can to go back to its crony ways and back millions and millions of dollars in loans for the benefit of super-large, politically connected companies.

I hate to break it to you, Representative Dent, but that’s not what I would call being “a strong proponent” of regular order.​

Now, I am happy to report today that lawmakers have once again denied the desire of President Obama, Representative Dent, and Senator Graham of restoring the Bank’s full lending authority by pushing out a Continuing Resolution that didn’t include a provision to reduce the quorum requirement. They should be commended for it. Now let’s see if it sticks.

Also, looking at this paragraph, I see a reference to Frelinghuysen doing “his utmost to steer vital spending legislation through the Committee.” Vital spending . . . such as Freylinghuysen’s amendment which added $33 billion of largely unrelated pork to the Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill? (Dent voted for both amendments.)

I do have to wonder whether these types of press releases are just for show — and whether their authors truly believe their content.

A University of Texas Regent Takes His Job Too Seriously for the Administrators

by George Leef

University governance is usually a snooze because the trustees or regents who are supposed to oversee school operations mostly act like potted plants. Regents are expected to support the administration and enjoy the perks. But sometimes they don’t and that leads to trouble, as has been the case at the University of Texas.

Wallace Hall was appointed to serve on the nine-member UT Board of Regents back in 2011. He started to look into problems he saw and turned up some disturbing things, such as a hidden slush fund that was being used to hand out “forgivable loans” to chosen faculty members in the law school. Exposing that led to the resignation of the law school’s dean.

The issue that has escalated into war between Hall and the UT brass (along with many politicians and other influential people in the state) was the way the university’s president was intervening in the admissions process to make sure that kids of those politicians and influential people got into the flagship school (Austin) even though their grades and scores would have led to their rejection. Hall was not satisfied with the administration’s efforts at sweeping this matter under the rug with first a feeble investigation by an in-house lawyer and later a report from an independent firm (Kroll, Inc.) that softened the impact. Hall demanded the admissions data that Kroll had used, but was stonewalled by the chancellor on legally weak grounds.

My latest Pope Center article covers the ongoing battle between Regent Hall and the anti-transparency liberals who run UT.

What I find most revealing about all of this is that the same administrators who overtly defend their use of affirmative action (i.e., racial preferences) to make UT “more diverse” were quietly running an affirmative-action program for rich kids who couldn’t get in on their own. Does either favoritism to make the school more “diverse” or favoritism to make the wealthy and powerful happy really do anything to improve the university and give the taxpayers the best return on their money?

Trump and the Marriage Gap

by Ramesh Ponnuru

The gender gap gets a lot more ink, but the marriage gap is bigger. It’s also changing:

While Donald Trump did better among male voters than female ones by 11 points, his support among married voters was 15 points higher than it was with unmarried voters. Married America voted for Trump by a solid margin (52 to 44 percent), while single America voted for Hillary Clinton in a landslide (55 to 37 percent).

These patterns have held for every presidential election since 1984, when exit pollsters started differentiating between married and unmarried voters. 

How Fun Will Sex Be During the Trump Administration?

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Not nearly as much fun as it was during Obama’s second term, according to this lunatic CNN op-ed.