Monthly Archives: March 2013

March links: Carol M White PEP is out, Unmarried Moms, Emulate Carmelo Anthony, BTOP Money Wasted, Screwed UP FHA Rules and More

* An old grant friend returns: The Carol M. White Physical Education Proposal has been released, with 95 grants available up to $750,000.

* Carmelo Anthony Is a Hero of Philanthropy More Athletes Should Emulate.

* “The New Unmarried Moms: We’ve reduced teen pregnancy, but now childbearing outside wedlock is exploding among 20-somethings,” which is interesting but ignores some of the really powerful social factors at work.

* Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) money wasted in West Virginia; Cisco conspires to steal money, succeeds. The Hacker News discussion is also worth reading, especially the top comment.

* “How short-sighted FHA rules enforced housing segregation and inequality: How Good Principles Can Make Bad Rules.”

* “Michigan is going to take over Detroit.” Oddly enough, we’ve never had a client in Detroit. Who wants to be the first? We’ll provide a 25% Detroit-Economic-Collapse Discount to the first Detroit nonprofit that calls, assuming there are any left.

* “Nurses dodge bullets to provide care.” (Maybe.)

* Here’s a hilariously bad sentence from the Department of Transportation’s Small Business Transportation Resource Center Program RFP:

OSDBU will enter into Cooperative Agreements with these organizations to provide outreach to the small business community in their designated region and provide financial and technical assistance, business training programs, business assessment, management training, counseling, marketing and outreach, and the dissemination of information, to encourage and assist small businesses to become better prepared to compete for, obtain, and manage DOT funded transportation-related contracts and subcontracts at the federal, state and local levels.

I’m exhausted by reading all the clauses; it’s like trying to read 19th Century German philosophy. I tried to increase the sentence’s resemblance to native English for newsletter subscribers: “Grants to provide outreach to small business community, along with financial / technical assistance, business training programs, business assessment, management training, counseling, marketing, and outreach, so small businesses are prepared for DOT-funded, transportation-related contracts.” Those of you who do not think I was somewhat successful are welcome to undertake this exercise on your own.

* From the Department of Confusion Department, or, rather, the Strategies Targeting Characteristics Common to Female Ex-Offenders program: “Services to be funded will be targeted to female ex-offenders, but must also be open to eligible male ex-offenders.” This contradicts the title of the program and the purpose of the project and is fairly par for the RFP course.

* Don’t subsidize parking. This should be obvious.

* Has L.A. fallen behind? (Hat tip Marginal Revolution). To me, the car-centric culture and traffic are the worst parts, and I don’t see those improving without some combination of removing or raising urban height limits.

* The ten-year hoodie on Kickstarter; I “backed” the Flint and Tinder underwear project and though the outcome was okay, it was not exceptional.

* The case for a true Mac Pro successor. We were dedicated tower users until alternatives became fast and the Mac Pro became a terrible value.

* How New York Could [and should] Get More Affordable Housing. The way to affordable housing is simple, direct, obvious, and widely ignored, chiefly by people who do not appear to understand supply and demand or basic economics.

* “One in three counties are dying,” because their original reason for existing—chiefly farming—has gone away.

The Existence of Drug Courts Implicitly Acknowledgement Failed Public Policy: An Example From the “Grants to Expand Substance Abuse Treatment Capacity” Program

Occasionally, an RFP will inadvertently show how one part of the government recognizes and tries to mitigate the unfortunate effects that come from another part of the government.

We—naturally—have an example of this principle in action: readers of last week’s e-mail grant newsletter probably saw “Grants to Expand Substance Abuse Treatment Capacity In Adult, Juvenile, and Family Drug Courts,” which offers funding “to expand and/or enhance substance abuse treatment services in existing adult, juvenile, and family “problem solving” courts which use the treatment drug court model in order to provide alcohol and drug treatment.”

Creating “‘problem solving’ courts” is another way of saying that conventional drug prohibition has failed, and conventional courts are a poor means of dealing with drugs. According to SAMHSA, they don’t solve problems; they are at best neutral, or they actually create problems. If they solved problems, we wouldn’t need new courts to solve problems.

Conventional courts, in other words, exacerbate the negative societal outcomes that drug laws impose or encourage. Right now, we’ve got a self-reinforcing legal system, because becoming involved in that system will ruin your life because the system itself will ruin your life for you.

SAMHSA realizes this to some extent. By funding “Grants to Expand Substance Abuse Treatment Capacity In Adult, Juvenile, and Family Drug Courts,” a combination of SAMHSA staffers and Congress are implicitly admitting that drug prohibition doesn’t work, and the enforcement effort behind prohibition doesn’t work. This is fairly obvious to anyone involved in the system, or anyone who has seen the movie Traffic and read Daniel Okrent’s brilliant book Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. Or anyone who has read articles like “The global war on drugs has cost billions and taken countless lives — but achieved little. The scant results finally have politicians and experts joining calls for legalization.”

We, as a society, had the good sense to give up on Vietnam and now Afghanistan. Vietnam is now trying to join the global economy. The crazy system built around the “War on Drugs” helps no one except people employed as prison guards* and in other enforcement capacities. The money that we currently direct to prisons and police could be directed to treatment and prevention, while the black-market transactions that currently take place on street corners could take place in Rite-Aids and be taxed.

While I wouldn’t recommend that friends starting snorting coke every weekend, there are plenty of functional alcoholics and addicts out there. Alcoholism or drug abuse aren’t attractive lifestyles to me, but some people live them, and the second- and third-order effects of trying to stop those people are worse than the problems those people might cause by indulging in drugs or booze.

(Another note: there was $2,500,000 for this program in 2010 and almost $13,000,000 available now. This could be an example of random program funding drift, or it could say something about current federal priorities.)


* California’s guards are particularly pernicious, as “Fading are the peacemakers: One of California’s most powerful political forces may have peaked” and “Big Labor’s Lock ‘Em Up Mentality: How otherwise progressive unions stand in the way of a more humane correctional system” demonstrate. These problems are well-known to California policy wonks but too little known among everyone else.