Hey, it's Laura again. Kevin says it's okay if I drop by every few days with some MoJo stories we think you'll like. Don't worry, he'll be back in the next post.

I can't vouch for his cats, but Kevin Drum is one incredibly nice teetotaler in person. All the more reason his non-dirty-hippie's guide to marijuana legalization is well worth a read. And when you're done weeding that (sorry), here are three more stories readers are liking today:

1) This reporter fled the Mexican Army. Spread the word and you could save his life.

2) Drug War Quiz: Do you know which anti-pot ad campaign findings the White House buried in 2004? Dust off your short-term memory and test your drug war knowledge.

3) The latest Palin ethics complaint: She allegedly collected per diem payments for living in her Wasilla home. Palin ethics bingo, anyone?

Laura McClure writes the MoJo Mix and is the new media editor at Mother Jones. Read her investigative feature on lifehacking gurus in the latest issue of Mother Jones.

I can't vouch for his cats, but Kevin Drum is one incredibly nice teetotaler in person. All the more reason his non-dirty-hippie's guide to marijuana legalization is well worth a read.

And when you're done weeding that (sorry), here are three more stories MoJo readers are liking today:

1) This reporter fled the Mexican Army. Spread the word and you could save his life.

2) Drug War Quiz: Do you know which anti-pot ad campaign findings the White House buried in 2004? Dust off your short-term memory and test your drug war knowledge.

3) The latest Palin ethics complaint? She allegedly collected per diem payments for living in her Wasilla home. Palin ethics bingo, anyone?

Laura McClure writes the MoJo Mix and is the new media editor at Mother Jones. Read her investigative feature on lifehacking gurus in the latest issue of Mother Jones.

Army Capt. Christian Lightsey, of Jacksonville, Fla., looks out over the village of Sarhani during a patrol, June 30. Lightsey, and fellow Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, have been patrolling Afghanistan's volatile Kunar province since arriving in early January. (Photo by Sgt. Matthew Moeller.)

Remember those 33 Russian battle tanks discovered last September aboard a Ukrainian ship seajacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia? The ship and the crew of the MV Faina were ultimately ransomed and released, but their load of weaponry continued on its way to Kenyan port of Mombasa amid suspicions that its cargo was ultimately bound for South Sudan. Thanks to Jane's researchers, we now know this to be true. Studying commercial satellite photographs, analysts Lauren Gelfand and Allison Puccioni tracked the tanks to their current location in, yes, South Sudan. Just what the region needs: more ways for people to kill other people. The bulk of the Jane's article is for subscribers only, but you can find a good summary at Danger Room

Raw Data

The Michael Jackson tribute is currently being aired on 18 separate channels on my TV.  Just sayin'.

Palin: Not Free Yet

On Tuesday, I reported that a new ethics complaint has been filed against Sarah Palin, who last week announced she was resigning as governor partly because of all the ethics complaints she has had to confront. In that posting, I glibly noted that ethics watchdogs in Alaska only had three weeks left during which they could pursue Palin. But that's not so. Andree McLeod, one of those watchdogs, sent me a portion of the Alaska state ethics act: 

A violation of this chapter may be investigated within two years after discovery of the alleged violation.

So when--if?--Palin gives up the governorship on July 26, she will not be out of the woods. The ethics-chasers of her state will have 24 more months to submit additional complaints.

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.

Pricking Bubbles

Alan Greenspan famously argued that the Fed shouldn't pay attention to asset bubbles.  They're hard to identify, he said, dangerous to prick, and can be better dealt with after they deflate.  This was, roughly speaking, the "Greenspan put," which served to make the recent housing bubble worse than it otherwise would have been, since investors knew the Fed would do nothing to stop the party while it was underway and would always be around afterward to help clean up.

Via Simon Johnson, I see that recently appointed New York Fed chairman William Dudley, a longtime bubble hawk, gave a speech a few days ago taking issue with Greenspan's claims:

Relative to this, I would argue that:

1. Asset bubbles may not be that hard to identify — especially large ones. For example, the housing bubble in the United States had been identified by many by 2005, and the compressed nature of risk spreads and the increased leverage in the financial system was very well known going into 2007.

2. If one means by monetary policy the instrument of short-term interest rates, then I agree that monetary policy is not well-suited to deal with asset bubbles. But this suggests that it might be better for central bankers to examine the efficacy of other instruments in their toolbox, rather than simply ignoring the development of asset bubbles.

3. If existing tools are judged inadequate, then central banks should work on developing additional policy instruments.

Let’s take the housing bubble as an example. Housing prices rose far faster than income. As a result, underwriting standards deteriorated. If regulators had forced mortgage originators to tighten up their standards or had forced the originators and securities issuers to keep “skin in the game”, I think the housing bubble might not have been so big.

I think that this crisis has demonstrated that the cost of waiting to clean up asset bubbles after they burst can be very high. That suggests we should explore how to respond earlier.

The basic proposition here — namely that letting bubbles run their course might not be such a great idea after all — is no longer especially controversial.  But Dudley's second and third points are the important ones here.  Even now, many economists still argue that hiking interest rates and producing a recession is too high a price to pay every time someone thinks an asset bubble is forming.  But if that's the case, it means that the Fed needs to be more aggressive about applying more targeted tools to prick bubbles, or, if their tools are inadequate, asking Congress to give it better ones.

Johnson is skeptical that Dudley is really serious about this.  If he is, the next step is to put some meat on the bones of this speech: specify how asset bubbles should be identified and what kinds of tools are needed to fight them.  Stay tuned.

Yesterday, the Mexican people handed President Felipe Calderon and his PAN party a stunning rebuke, giving the PRI—the party that held insanely corrupt sway over the country for 70 years—the upper hand in Congress and many of the contested governorships, including some thought to be PAN strongholds.

The reason? Well the economy for one, but also that Mexicans are fed up with drug-related violence consuming their country and don't think that Calderon's war on the cartels has done much good. (A war that we are helping to fund.)

That's no surprise to anyone who reads Charles Bowden's harrowing piece on Emilio Gutíerrez Soto, a reporter who found himself on the wrong side of corrupt army officials who are using the pretext of the drug war to wage their own bid for power. Calderon may honestly be trying to root out corruption, but it is so deep rooted, the cartels so bloodthirsty, that Meixcan citizens are fed up.

The military has again flooded northern Mexico, ever since President Felipe Calderón assumed office in December 2006 with a margin so razor thin that many Mexicans think he is an illegitimate president. One of his first acts was to declare a war on the nation's thriving drug industry, and his favorite tool was to be the Mexican Army, portrayed as less corrupt than the local or national police. Now some 45,000 soldiers, nearly 25 percent of the Army, are marauding all over the country, escalating the mayhem that consumes Mexico. In 2008, more than 6,000 Mexicans died in the drug violence, a larger loss than the United States has endured during the entire Iraq War. Since 2000, two dozen reporters have been officially recorded as murdered, at least seven more have vanished, and an unknown number have fled into the United States. But all numbers in Mexico are slippery, because people have so many ways of disappearing. In 2008, 188 Mexicans—cops, reporters, businesspeople—sought political asylum at US border crossings, more than twice as many as the year before. This is the wave of gore the man rides as he heads north.

Emilio has applied for asylum. The cartels have threatened his US lawyer, who now starts his car with a remote control. Read the piece. Watch his interview with Reporters Without Borders. And then contemplate the fact that the cartels are openly advocating for the candidates of their choice, infiltrating our border patrol, and already operate in 259 US cities.

This is your war on drugs.

Alec Baldwin: leading man, comic genius, bad dad, ultra-liberal pontificator, ... member of Congress? Yep, the troubled Hollywood actor, enjoying a resurgence thanks to the popularity of NBC's 30 Rock, tells Playboy that he's looking to join the party on Capitol Hill in 2012, assuming a suitable seat becomes available. "The desire is there, that’s one component,” he says. “The other component is opportunity." 

From the actor's perspective, the timing is perfect. His current contract with NBC expires in 2012, just when his new gig would kick in. Celebrities-turned-politicians are a fixture in American politics: Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, and, most recently, Al Franken, to name a few. But is Baldwin worried that he'll be perceived as just another Hollywood celebrity trading his fame for political power? Nope. He's particularly confident when comparing himself with California's governor. "His only credentials are that he ran a fitness program under some bygone president," Baldwin says. "I'm (Alexis) de Toqueville compared to Schwarzenegger."

Which state would Baldwin most like to represent? Not California. "Who wants to live in California?" he joked. Connecticut meets his approval, particularly if he can face off against Joe Lieberman. But New York seems to be his most coveted spot--if there's a spot open in 2012, that is. "People get sick, die. They're offered lucrative deals and want to cash in and make money for their retirement. People misstep. Unfortunately, an opportunity for me may mean bad things for someone else."

Raw Power

In a speech today in Russia, Barack Obama said  that "the pursuit of power is no longer a zero-sum game."  Dan Drezner isn't so sure:

If he had said, "The pursuit of prosperity is no longer a zero-sum game," I'd be fine with the passage.  I still think power is a zero-sum concept, however.  The two ideas are linked but hardly the same. 

I suppose that's true.  Even in a Thomas Barnett-ish world where all the big players gang up to police the world, it's prosperity and security that are positive sum, not raw power.  Anyone care to try and come up with a counterexample?