Attack of the Boobs

Remember when “progressives” were all about personal freedom? That’s OK. Neither do they:

New Yorkers have been freaking out over the last few weeks, via their local media, about topless women performing at Times Square. Women. Topless. Asking for money. The horror! What do they think this is, America? Any complaints about the women physically harassing other people, of course, should be possible for police to handle using existing laws against things like harassment. The cops would rather take pictures with them—a telling sign of the “danger” these women actually pose.

Now Mayor Bill de Blasio has set up a task force for the specific purpose of banning the topless women, and floated one solution to the “problem”—closing the pedestrian plazas in Times Square and bringing back the vehicular traffic.

Why do government solutions to any perceived “problem” always always involve making life difficult for innocent bystanders? These women — who call themselves desnudas — dress up in panties and some creative paint and ask for money in exchange for taking pictures with them. So naturally the response to this has to be to close the damned pedestrian mall and inconvenience everyone.

De Blasio believes this would also rid Times Square of the costumed children’s characters some New Yorkers ridiculously fear. Because God forbid you live in New York and choose to spend your time and earn your money in a way some New Yorkers might find objectionable. They’ll try to use the power of government to bully you away from your choice.

Yes, that’s Mayor de Blasio, the supposed Leader of the Revolution, who has recently hired 1300 more cops — at a time when NYC is at or near record low levels of violent crime — to investigate stuff like this (said investigation involving confiscating the women’s costumes and questioning them in their robes. For safety).

It’s worth noting that going topless is not a crime in New York. In fact, nothing these women are doing is a crime. The Naked Cowboy has been entertaining tourists for years. The only reason a crackdown can even be contemplated is because of crony capitalist bullshit:

Economic activity in Times Square, one of the most famous commercial locations in all the world, actually falls under the jurisdiction of the state government, as well as the city, because it is part of the state’s economic development (crony capitalism) work, as the 42nd Street Development Project.

Because of that status, the Empire State Development corporation (ESD), the state’s “chief economic development agency,” can set rules for Times Square. Last week, the board of directors voted on a last minute resolution that insisted the topless women were breaking the law against disturbing the public order, because they had a “tendency” to disrupt commercial activity in Times Square. But the women are taking photos with tourists in exchange for money, isn’t that a commercial activity? Of course it is, but not the kind the state’s cronyist development agency is interested in.

Read this account from a New York Post reporter who spent a day as a desnuda. People were friendly and polite. Families wanted to take pictures with her. The only downside was a few creeps who stared at her. How is anything in that account “disturbing the public order”? It isn’t. But it offends someone’s delicate sensibilities so the Great White Dipshit has to call out the cops.

You can’t blame Corporate America for this. Disney and Marvel have said they want no part of the crackdown, even against people using unlicensed Disney and Marvel images. No, you can put this all at the feet of de Blasio, the supposed Man of the People who’s turning out to be just another regulatory thug.

Can’t say I’m surprised.

It’s Cute When We Do It: SWATing Edition

What could possibly go wrong?

As more states relax rules about open-carrying of guns, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has taken to social media to urge the public to assume gun-toters are trouble, and to call the cops on anyone they feel may be a threat.

“If you see someone carrying a firearm in public—openly or concealed—and have ANY doubts about their intent, call 911 immediately and ask police to come to the scene,” the group wrote on its widely followed Facebook page. “Never put your safety, or the safety of your loved ones, at the mercy of weak gun laws that arm individuals in public with little or no criminal and/or mental health screening.”

That approach, according to a blog post by Ohio-based Buckeye Firearms Association, could give rise to needless, tense confrontations between police and gun owners. The association and other similar groups liken the tactic to “swatting,” or the act of tricking an emergency service into dispatching responders based on a false report. Many online harassment campaigns have been known to participate in the practice.

As it happens, conceal carry permit holders are far less likely than the general public to be a threat. The gun control lobby knows (or should know it) and is ignoring it in their effort to harass gun owners.

I don’t know how wide-spread this tactic is. This may just be one or a few jackasses calling for this. But Jazz zeros in on the hypocrisy:

While this is a bad idea (and a criminal one) under any circumstances, it’s a particularly cynical and hypocritical move on the part of the gun grabbers. They tend to be almost exclusively liberal and have a large crossover with the same groups who are constantly complaining about violent encounters between the police and suspects. The atmosphere around the nation is particularly tense for law enforcement officers as more and more of them are murdered and criminals become more brazen [Hal: actually, crime and violent crime are down in most of the country and cops are less like to be attacked than ever]. Sending the cops out on a call where they have been falsely informed that someone is “acting suspicious” and is clearly armed just puts everyone on a hair trigger… literally.

Anyone remember Tamir Rice? Like, from a few months ago? He was killed because a citizen called in a report about someone with a gun (the part where the citizen said it might be a fake was not relayed to the officers). Anyone remember John Crawford? He was killed for the same reason. So the lesson the gun grabbers take is that we should be doing this to gun owners?

It’s almost as if they want there to be violent confrontations between law enforcement and gun owners. For years, the gun grabbers claimed that conceal and open carry laws would result in bloodbaths in the streets. People would be blazing away over car accidents. But that didn’t happen. Violence has continued to fall, permit holders continue to be peaceful and the case for gun control gets weaker every year.

I guarantee you that the first time this tactic results in a gun owner or a police officer being shot, the gun grabbers will milk it to the maximum. The blame won’t be on the gun grabber who called in a report or the training that lead to the over-reaction. No, it will be blamed on the gun.

Because when you’ve decided that guns in the hands of citizens are an evil, almost anything becomes justified.

Doing Your Job

Shortly after the Obergefell decision was handed down, the states complied with the ruling by instructing their employees to issue marriage license to gay couples who applied. Almost all have complied. A couple of counties in Texas and a few in Alabama are refusing. But the debate has come to center around Kim Davis, a clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky, who has refused to issue marriage licenses because she says it violates her religious liberty. She has been ordered by the courts to issue marriage licenses and the Supreme Court has now denied her appeal on religious grounds.

On this matter, I find myself agreeing with Ed Morrissey:

We’ve written plenty of posts defending religious freedom and the right to choose not to participate in private ceremonies, but this case is different. The other cases about which we have written involve private enterprise — bakers, photographers, venue owners — who do not exercise a monopoly on their markets. Operating a private business should not strip people of the right to free religious expression in all phases of their lives; other businesses can and do wish to participate in those events, and the free market should be free for all within it.

Government is not a free market, however; it is a monopoly backed up by force. If the law says these couples can apply for and receive a marriage license, then government has to abide by that law. They exercise a monopoly on marriage licenses; these couples cannot go anywhere else to get one. This is a denial of access to market by government force, essentially, a much different situation than with bakers, photographers, and so on.

Accepting office in government means upholding the law. If that conflicts with Davis’ religious beliefs, then she should resign and find other work. Ignoring the law and denying services on the basis of an official’s own desires is a form of petty tyranny. We may not like the law, but those in office cannot be allowed to decide for themselves which they follow on the basis of personal preference.

I said the same thing when Judge Roy Moore refused to move a monument to the Ten Commandments after a court order (and Moore is also telling Alabama clerks not to issue licenses). If you have a moral objection to what the government has ordered you to do, you should resign your position. You do not get to just refuse and keep drawing a paycheck.

There’s been some noise about how many times Kim Davis has been married and what her personal life is like. I find that to be pointless muck-raking. If Davis were a paragon of virtue, would that make a difference? Then what’s the point in wallowing in her personal life? She would be wrong if she were Mother Theresa. Her job to is to issue marriage licenses compliant with the law. She’s not doing her job. She’s disobeying a court order. Either force to resign or arrest her for Contempt.

Monday Quick Hits

BLM Disses Dems; Makes Me Happy:

Last week, the Democratic Party expressed support for Black Lives Matter. Here is BLM’s heartening response:

A resolution signaling the Democratic National Committee’s endorsement that Black lives matter, in no way implies an endorsement of the DNC by the Black Lives Matter Network, nor was it done in consultation with us. We do not now, nor have we ever, endorsed or affiliated with the Democratic Party, or with any party. The Democratic Party, like the Republican and all political parties, have historically attempted to control or contain Black people’s efforts to liberate ourselves. True change requires real struggle, and that struggle will be in the streets and led by the people, not by a political party.

More specifically, the Black Lives Matter Network is clear that a resolution from the Democratic National Committee won’t bring the changes we seek. Resolutions without concrete change are just business as usual. Promises are not policies. We demand freedom for Black bodies, justice for Black lives, safety for Black communities, and rights for Black people. We demand action, not words, from those who purport to stand with us.

While the Black Lives Matter Network applauds political change towards making the world safer for Black life, our only endorsement goes to the protest movement we’ve built together with Black people nationwide — not the self-interested candidates, parties, or political machine seeking our vote.”

Again, I might take issue with some of the verbiage and emphasis. But they are forcing the Democratic Party to admit that they supported the militarization of police and the ramping up of criminal penalties. They are forcing the Democratic Party to face their long history of pandering to black votes while screwing black people. While we might disagree on policy, I applaud any movement that refuses to associate itself with a political party.

Speaking of Keynesianism:

Tyler Cowen reminds us that the growing sinkhole that is the Chinese economy was the subject of praise just a few years ago:

Remember back in 2009, and a bit thereafter (pdf), when so many people were praising China’s very activist, multi-trillion fiscal stimulus?

Yet some of us at the time insisted this would only push off and deepen China’s adjustment problems. There was already excess capacity and high debt and favored state-owned industries, and the stimulus was making all of those problems worse and only postponing a needed adjustment. The Chinese incipient contraction was based on structural problems, not a simple lack of aggregate demand.

How’s that debate going? While the final outcome remains uncertain, Austrian-like perspectives on China are looking pretty good these days.

Just as you go to war with the army you’ve got, so must a country conduct fiscal stimulus with the policy instruments it has. And most forms of Chinese fiscal stimulus make their imbalances worse rather than better. Yet dreams of fiscal stimulus as an answer to the macro problems on the table never die.

To the Keynesians — or, as I call them, the pseudoKeynesians — it is always time to spend money.

Was Segregation Made or Did it Just Happen?:

I’ve been sitting on this link for weeks but there’s not much I can add. It details how our inner city slums didn’t just happen. They were made and the men who made it were Democrats.

Hmm. I should pass that on the BLM folks.

Denali Denial

Obama officially reverted Mt. McKinley back to being named Denali. A few people are trying to whip up some outrage but I don’t see the point. Everyone in Alaska calls it Denali and Congress appears to have punted this kind of authority to the bureaucracy long ago.

The Best of Lee: Peak Oil

Writing about Venezuela’s oil crash reminded me of this great post from Lee in which he destroyed the very notion of Peak Oil. You should read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt:

In the late 1970s my cousin, who was at the time in her late teens or early 20s, came to visit my family in Australia. My father, as most of you know, was in the oil business, specifically the drilling aspect. He knew all there was to know about getting oil out of the ground. My cousin, a good soul, expressed great concern that “within ten years” the world’s supply of oil would be depleted, and regaled him with the horror stories of global doom that would accompany this eventuality. My father listened to her, then patiently explained how she had no idea what she was talking about, that her head had been filled full of mush by leftist professors, and the idea that the world would ever “run out” of oil is absurd. Remember, this was thirty years ago that we were “ten years” away from running out of oil. Oddly enough, we’re still now “ten years” away from running out of oil.

The difficult argument is to explain to people, calmly and rationally, the situation with oil. The easy thing to do is terrify people into thinking that, just like sucking on a milkshake, one day we’re just going to run out. As I’ve said before, technological advances will make oil obsolete long before we ever actually run out of it. If oil were actually in any danger of running out any time soon it would be $500,000 a barrel instead of $100. (That’s freshman economics, folks. Everyone should understand that.)

We need to develop clean technologies. We need electric cars. We need to be concerned with global warming and the environment. These are all legitimate, and you will find no bigger proponent of finding solutions to these problems than me. But what I refuse to do is buy into the Chicken Little syndrome whereby I wail and screech about how the world is going to end if I don’t support a particular political proposition. Kyoto was a stupid idea when it was first proposed during the Clinton administration, and there’s a reason it was voted down 95-0 in the Senate. (That’s right, liberals, not one member of the Democrats voted in favor of it.) But opposing bad legislation does not equal a desire to ignore the problem, it’s a disagreement about the means. And, given the total, utter, abject failure of Kyoto since its ratification the United States seems eerily prescient with its rejection.

Oil will never run out. Ever. There is too much money to be made in the technology industry for the world to keep relying solely on oil. We don’t need nightmares, we don’t need screaming histrionics, we don’t need end of the world scenarios. What we need are smart people taking the problem seriously, and finding workable, reasonable solutions to transition the world from a petroleum economy into the next generation.

Unfortunately, doing things reasonably and sensibly doesn’t win elections. So we’ll continue to have global consensuses on all sorts of things that make no sense.

At the time Lee wrote those words, oil was surging to a record of $145 a barrel. Barack Obama and other Very Wise People told us that we couldn’t drill our way out of this (those were Obama’s literal words). Since then, increased production has dropped the price of oil to $45 a barrel with medium-term forecasts that it will stay in that range. In fact, many environmentalists are now worried that there is too much proven reserve and that using it all would cause very severe global warming.

Doubtless the price of oil will one day go up again as demand surges and some of the current wells run out. And doubtless we will hear panic-mongering from the Peak Oil people. And doubtless we will either find a new source of oil or an economically viable alternative (probably natural gas or nuclear) that will make the entire point moot.

Come to think of it, these moral panics never seem to pan out either, do they?

The Venezuelan Implosion

Holy shit:

Venezuela is about to earn another ignominious distinction.
Long home to the world’s highest inflation rate, the country now is set to become the site of the 57th hyperinflation event in modern recorded history, says Steve Hanke, professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University. While the feat may be little more than a formality in a country where Hanke calculates annual cost-of-living increases already run at 772 percent, it’s the latest sign a debt default may be closer than traders previously thought.
With Venezuela’s currency losing 32 percent of its value in the past month in the black market, according to, and falling oil prices throttling the cash-starved nation’s biggest revenue source, the government may run out of money to pay its debts by year-end, according to Societe Generale SA. Derivatives traders have ratcheted up the probability of a default within one year to 63 percent, compared with 33 percent just two months ago.

“They’re very close to hyperinflation,” Hanke, who wrote a book on hyperinflation in Zimbabwe, said by phone from Baltimore. “When you have a domestic currency that is withering on the vine, it becomes more problematic servicing foreign debt.”

The currency fell so fast on Monday that it implied a monthly inflation rate of 53.98 percent. A full month of days on which the implied monthly rate was faster than 50 percent would meet his definition for hyperinflation.

This is in addition to massive shortages of basic goods, soaring crime, rapidly rising unemployment. So much for Chavismo.

Now this is the point where some well-meaning fool will tell me it’s all America’s fault or something. But the thing is, this economic collapse was predicted by everyone who knew what they were talking about. McCardle:

For about a decade, some sectors of the left hoped that Hugo Chavez represented an alternative to the neoliberal consensus on economic policy. Every time I wrote that Chavez was in fact direly mismanaging the economy, diverting investment funds that were needed to maintain oil output into social spending, I knew that I could look forward to receiving angry e-mails and comments accusing me of trying to sabotage his achievements for the benefit of my corporatist paymaster.

The problem was that the money he was using was, essentially, the nation’s seed corn. Venezuelan crude oil is relatively expensive to extract and refine and required a high level of investment just to keep production level. As long as oil prices were booming, this policy wasn’t too costly because the increase offset production losses. But this suffered from the same acceleration problem that we discussed earlier: The more production fell, the more the country needed prices to rise to offset it.

A little over a decade ago, I had a long car ride with a woman who worked in the oil industry. She said basically the same thing: that Venezuela was sitting on a lake of oil but not investing their massive revenue in sustaining or growing production. High oil prices weren’t going to last forever (Peak Oil hysterics not withstanding). Her particular field was using geological data to more accurately find undersea reserves of oil and she knew production was going to come back up and prices would fall. This would doom Venezuela because their production wasn’t going to be able to keep up: they were entirely dependent on high prices. When oil crashed, so would their economy.

Chavez was riding an asset bubble and claiming it proved his genius. Maybe if Venzuela has used their revenues to develop a thriving private sector of the economy, they could have withstood this. But they didn’t and oil was all they had. So we’re finally into the end game for Hugo Chavez’s “nobel experiment”.

I would like to think that people would learn a thing or two from the smoking crater in Caracas. But they never do. In fact, right now they’re wondering why the hell China is imploding as well. After all, Thomas Friedman’s been writing about sixteen columns a week on how superior their system is to ours. People like me have been pointing out that China has huge problems with corruption, an aging population and an economy that, while growing, had picked all the low-hanging fruit. We’ve been pointing out that China’s “explosive growth” was a result of having been dirt poor in the first place (it’s much easier to grow 10% of nothing that 10% of everything). Eventually, that engine was going to run out of steam. But, no: Very Wise People kept insisting that China had a found an alternative to the free market.

Just like Venezuela had.

And just like Japan before that.

And the Soviet Union before that.

And Germany before that.

Boy. These new economic ideas never seem to work out, do they?

Ban Bag Bust

A few years ago, a bunch of liberal cities began to ban plastic bags. They claimed would help save the Earth, cutting down on landfill use and eliminating a harm to wildlife. I was very skeptical for a variety of reasons.

Well, this is my shocked face:

In Austin, for example, a post-ban survey found that single-use plastic bags accounted for only 0.03 percent of the total litter collected in the city in 2015. Assuming the pre-ban rate was closer to the 0.12 percent in nearby Fort Worth, that marks a roughly 75 percent reduction of single-use plastic bags in Austin’s landfills.

But, as the Austin assessment pointedly notes, reducing the use of a product that’s harmful to the environment is no guarantee of a positive environmental outcome. Among the main environmental benefits of Austin’s ban was supposed to be a reduction in the amount of energy and raw materials used to manufacture the bags. To that end, the city encouraged residents to instead use reusable bags. Those bags have larger carbon footprints, due to the greater energy required to produce their stronger plastics, but the city figured the overall impact would be lower, as consumers got acquainted with the new, more durable product.

What the city didn’t foresee is that residents would start treating reusable bags like single-use bags. The volume of reusable plastic bags now turning up at the city’s recycling centers has become “nearly equivalent to the amount of all of the single use bags removed from the recycling stream as a result of the ordinance implemented in 2013,” according to the assessment. And those lightly used bags are landfill-bound, because recycling isn’t any more cost-effective for reusable plastic bags than the single-use variety.

Some of these issues could be addressed through the increased use of reusable canvas bags. But canvas is even more carbon intensive to produce than plastic; studies suggest consumers would need to use a single canvas bag around 130 times before they start achieving any net environmental benefit as compared with a single-use plastic bag. And, for some consumers, the higher price for canvas bags may be prohibitive, in any case.

That’s actually understating the case. Canvas bags have to be cleaned regularly. I previously noted a rise in ER admissions in cities that banned plastic bags because people were eating contaminated food:

This is something the environmentalists have never understood. People don’t do “bad” environmental things because they hate cute little fishies; they do it because it’s the least bad option facing them. So environmentalists, for example, ban styrofoam cups in favor of paper cups and then are shocked when it turns out paper cups cost more energy to produce and create more waste. They go on about food miles and then are blindsided when it turns out that flying in your lamb from New Zealand is better for the environment than growing it locally.

People dispose of grocery bags for a reason: to get rid of the dirt, bacteria, blood, etc. that comes off of raw food. This problem can be overcome by washing reusable bags. But … that cuts into the supposed environmental benefit. If you wash it every time, it would taken hundreds of uses before a reusable bag would match the environmental impact of a plastic bag.

Actually, is likely that canvas bags will never consume less energy than a plastic bag. This is of a piece with a larger effort in the environmental movement that is emphasizing recycling and composting, which are extremely expensive in terms of energy. By my math, that’s trading a problem we don’t have (a lack of landfill space) for a problem we do (global warming).

But the plastic bag ban was never about the environment, really. It was what one person called “brick in the toilet” environmentalism. It was about doing something even if that something has no tangible benefit. It was about making the public sacrifice some convenience because sacrificing convenience seems moral. Who cares if it works as long as you get everyone marching along to the government’s drum?

One of the things I’ve said for years about the environmentalist movement is that they need to decide what they want: style or substance. Do they actually want to improve the environment or do they want to look they’re improving it? We see, over and over again, environmentalists advocating policies that feel good but do harm: opposing nuclear power, “food miles”, “earth hours”, banning plastic bags. I think it’s clear that they’ve made their choice. If we are going to save the Earth, the ideas for doing it are going to have to come out of the conservative and libertarian movements.

BLM Proposes

Last week, I agreed with Hillary Clinton that if Black Lives Matter wanted to make a difference, they needed to propose actual laws and policies, not just “raise awareness”. This week, they’ve come out with a list of proposals and … it’s actually pretty reasonable. They propose things like better police training, an end to asset forfeiture and broken windows policing, independent investigation of police shootings, body cameras. There are a few things I would disagree with but, overall, this is pretty mainstream and in line with what many conservatives have been talking about, especially asset forfeiture reform and demilitarization.

Radley Balko notes that while these proposals are reasonable, they are likely to portrayed as radical by police unions who are used to having the media and politicians mindlessly parrot their spokesmen. But:

There is at least some reason to be more optimistic this time around. The main reason is that the problems in policing are starting to affect people who have the status and power to do something about them. One reason we’re starting to see conservative opposition to police militarization, for example, is that police militarization is starting to affect conservatives. We’re seeing regulatory agencies with armed police forces, some even with tactical teams. We’re seeing SWAT-like tactics used to enforce zoning laws and low-level crimes. We’re seeing heavy-handed force used to collect cigarette taxes or to enforce regulatory law.

Similarly, while how and when police use lethal force has a disproportionate effect on communities of color, there has been no shortage of stories about unarmed white people killed by police. There are problems in policing that are directly related to race, such as profiling, bias and an irrational fear of black criminality. But there are also problems in policing that affect people of all races, such as the use of lethal force, unnecessary escalation and the prioritizing of officer safety over all else. (Even these problems disproportionately affect black and brown people.)

Do we dare say that … all lives matter? A government that can launch an armed SWAT raid against Okra plants is a danger to everyone, black white or Dolezal.

In my original post, I said that the best way to address the problems in law enforcement is for government to “make itself less powerful, less intrusive, more accountable and more respectful of our basic civil liberties.” Black Lives Matter’s proposals do exactly that. Ultimately, we will have to address the massive size and scope of government. The less the law is involved in our lives, the less chance there is for that involvement to go wrong. But shaping reform around BLM’s proposals would be a great first step toward addressing the problems and building a better relationship between police and their communities.

The EPA Knew

You’re probably aware of the recent ecological disaster the EPA caused in the Gold King Mine. While cleaning up the heavily polluted site, they caused a blowout that put millions of gallons of toxic water into the Animas and San Juan Rivers, turning them yellow. I’ve been waiting for more details on the event. Accidents happen, particularly when you’re working at a poorly known site. The EPA wasn’t just screwing around with the mine; they were trying to clean up an ongoing environmental problem that had killed many of the fish in the upper Animas river. Acid mine drainage is a huge environmental problem and is one of the reasons we have the EPA in the first place (I was just reading an article about the Berkeley Pit mine, a potential time bomb tat the EPA is defusing).

Well, we’re finding out some things now. And it looks very bad:

U.S. officials knew of the potential for a catastrophic “blowout” of poisonous wastewater from an inactive gold mine, yet appeared to have only a cursory plan to deal with such an event when a government cleanup team triggered a 3-million-gallon spill, according to internal documents released by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA released the documents late Friday following weeks of prodding from The Associated Press and other media organizations. While shedding some light on the circumstances surrounding the accident, the newly disclosed information also raises more questions about whether enough was done to prevent it.

A May 2015 action plan produced by an EPA contractor, Environmental Restoration LLC, also noted the potential for a blowout.

The May plan also called for a pond that would be used to manage the mine water and prevent contaminants from entering waterways. That pond was not completed.

A 71-page safety plan for the site included only a few lines describing what to do if there was a spill: Locate the source and stop the flow, begin containment and recovery of the spilled materials, and alert downstream drinking water systems as needed.

Note that the EPA has actually redacted parts of the documents as if there are national security issues at stake. They have also not revealed what happened immediately before and after the blowout or why they waited for over a day to let local governments know that their water was turning to poison.

I expect, in the end, no one will be held accountable. “Stuff happens” is the way of the Obama Administration, at least when it comes to their own people. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s going to get a lot worse for the EPA.

Big Damned Heroes

Memo to Jihadist murderers. If you must try to slaughter innocent civilians, always check first to make sure there are no heroes around. Otherwise, this will happen:

It was 5:45 p.m., a normal Friday afternoon on the sleek high-speed train that takes high-level European diplomats, businesspeople, tourists and ordinary citizens between Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris.

Less than an hour away from Paris, a French passenger got up from his seat to use the toilets at the back of the carriage. Suddenly, in front of him rose a slightly built man. Across the man’s chest, in a sling, was an automatic rifle of the kind favored by jihadists the world over: an AK-47.

The passenger threw himself on the man. The gun went off, once, twice, several times. Glass shattered. A bullet hit a passenger.

The man with the gun kept going down the carriage, holding his AK-47 and a Luger pistol. In a pocket was a sharp blade capable of inflicting grievous harm. He had at least nine cartridges of ammunition, enough for serious carnage.

Alek Skarlatos, a specialist in the National Guard from Oregon vacationing in Europe with a friend in the Air Force, Airman First Class Spencer Stone and another American, Anthony Sadler, looked up and saw the gunman. Mr. Skarlatos, who was returning from a deployment in Afghanistan, looked over at the powerfully built Mr. Stone, a martial arts enthusiast. “Let’s go, go!” he shouted.

Mr. Stone went after the heavily armed gunman and, with his friends, pounded him to the floor of the train carriage. “I mean, adrenaline mostly just takes over,” Mr. Skarlatos said in a Skype interview on Saturday that appeared on television, barely 12 hours after it was over. “I didn’t realize, or fully comprehend, what was going on.”

Their actions saved many lives on the train, which was packed with over 500 passengers, according to French officials. The attack took place in Oignies, near the historic town of Arras.

The would-be mass murderer’s name has yet to be confirmed, but preliminary indications are that he is … wait for it … a member of a radical Islamist movement.

By Saturday evening, having left the hospital in Lille where he was operated on after being severely cut by the suspect, Mr. Stone and his friends were being hailed as heroes by French officials and citizens. Some were proposing them for the Legion of Honor. President François Hollande of France had already invited them to Élysée Palace for a congratulatory meeting. The French passenger who initially encountered the attacker was also lauded by French officials for his bravery, but was not named.

All four should get the Legion of Honor as well as any commendations President Obama sees fit to give them. As far as anyone knew, this guy could have had explosives on him. This was jumping on a grenade. This was putting their lives at risk to save others. And that can’t be commended enough.

It gets better. Stone continued to hold the guy down while he was bleeding from his neck and nearly served thumb. Once he’d been secured, Stone, still bleeding, went to the aid of wounded passenger and possibly saved his life. Skarlatos had the presence of mind to gather the weapons and search the car for other potential gunmen. They later discovered that the guns wouldn’t have worked because the Jihadist was incompetent. But there was no way of knowing that at the time. Here’s a picture of three heroes:


I once joked with a marine that the only reason we arm our soldiers is to give the enemy a sporting chance. Three unarmed Americans, two of them soldiers, against one idiot Jihadist who couldn’t figure out how to properly work his weapons? No chance.