Thursday, December 29, 2016

LETTER: Dear President-Elect Trump, please repeal HUD's smoking ban rule...

P.O. Box 1036
Brooklyn, New York 11234

                                                                                                December 22, 2016

The Honorable Donald Trump
Presidential Transition Office
721 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10022

Dear Mr. President-Elect,

     We are elated to have elected to our White House two men who honor the rich traditions of our country and the fundamental beliefs on which it was founded.  Smaller and less intrusive government, which both you and Vice President-Elect Pence clearly value, is an ideal that not only applies to business and industry but to the people.  And so we hope that the burdens you’ve both promised to lift off of industry in pursuit of economic freedom will be lifted off of the people as well in pursuit of personal freedom.

     We ask that you rescind the final rule “Smoke-Free Public Housing” that was imposed by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) and printed in the Federal Register on December 5, 2016 (Docket No. FR 5597-F-03).  You don’t have to have a favorable view of smoking to be against what New York’s Observer newspaper editors describe as possibly “the most far-reaching, intrusive and over-reaching executive order of the entire Obama administration.”1 Far-reaching because it assaults people in the privacy of their own homes and over-reaching because it is fraught with substantial constitutional questions.2   

     Imagine an elderly or disabled veteran being told by a federal agency that he can't enjoy a cigar in his own home; that he'd have to get dressed, somehow make it downstairs and then 25 feet further (or more since the HUD rule provides latitude to each public housing authority to extend it) into the freezing cold, torrid heat or drenching rain without a bench to sit on.  No, s/he can’t go to the park because smoking is banned there too.

     In 2013, President Obama honored the nation's oldest veteran, Richard Overton, in front of thousands in D.C. on Veteran’s Day.3  Obama told the crowd, "His service on the battlefield was not always matched by the respect that he deserved at home."  Well, this veteran is also well known for his love of his cigars – enjoying up to twelve of them a day.  Mr. Overton is still with us at 110 years old.4 What “respect at home” are veterans like him receiving from President Obama and Housing Secretary Julian Castro when they are being kicked out of their homes – either twelve times a day or for good if they get evicted for non-compliance?

     HUD’s callous disregard for the well-being (in all other uninvited manner beside the personally invited legal choice to smoke) of residents such as Mr. Overton dictates that this exercise cannot be rationally said to be all about health.  If the person who wants to smoke falls down the stairs, catches pneumonia or becomes depressed is the trade HUD is making then it’s clear the only thing this rule is about is HUD’s complicity in Big Public Health’s singularly obsessive social engineering experiment.  “Quit smoking” – at the point of their rule-making gun – is their answer and the real motivation behind this rule. (Claiming smoking in one apartment harms non-smokers in another apartment is their wholly unproved excuse.)  They call it the “tobacco endgame.”5 I think others would call this means to an end the “liberty endgame”; whereby to “denormalize” smoking they have had to denormalize civil liberty ideals.

     This is not a “right to smoke” objection as HUD and its rule supporters insist on characterizing any resistance.  At stake is the right of U.S. citizens to be left alone to engage in a legal activity in the privacy of one’s own home – the last place left without a smoking ban (otherwise this is also de facto Prohibition). There can be no end to such incursion if one is allowed through. It was, in fact, Vice President-Elect Pence who once said, “A government big enough to go after smokers is big enough to go after you.”6

     We have no objections to government and health groups advising against smoking and offering stop-smoking assistance to those who seek it.  But when Congress and states’ rights are side-stepped and a federal agency starts breaking down its citizens’ own front doors to rip it out of their hands because they refuse the advice let’s stop pretending the issue is about smoking instead of tyranny.   

     We the people beg you for relief.  Please rescind this rule.


                                                                                                Audrey Silk

cc:        The Honorable Mike Pence
            Vice President-Elect

            Dr. Ben Carson
            HUD Secretary Nominee

            The Honorable Tom Price
            HHS Secretary Nominee


1. Editorial. “The Nanny State Shames Poor Smokers in Their Homes.” Observer. 12/7/16.

2. Audrey Silk / C.L.A.S.H. Comment on the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Proposed Rule: FR 5597-P-02 Instituting Smoke- Free Public Housing. ID: HUD-2015-0101-0528.  1/12/16

3. Lindy Royce-Bartlett. “Oldest World War II vet Richard Overton, 107, honored by President Obama.” CNN. 11/11/13

4. Douglas Ernst. “Oldest World War II veteran still chomping cigars at 110.” The Washington Times.

5. "Part of the 'tobacco endgame' is to further denormalize smoking, to the point that the next generation of kids will not grow up seeing it as something adults do. This is a hard argument to make when a kid smells smoke every time he walks into the hallway of his building and sees groups of residents smoking on stoops. Smoking bans have really helped to marginalize smoking behavior in other settings, like airports, restaurants, hospitals and schools. Multiunit housing is the next logical step."

Stanford University Freeman Spogli Institute, Center for Health Policy / Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research News. “Is proposed ban on smoking in public housing fair and just?” 11/16/15

6.  Kim LaCapria. “That Makes No Pence.” Snopes. 11/11/16


  1. If HUD housing is so poorly constructed that lots of smoke passes from one apartment into the next, then so can infectious airborn illnesses, pet allergans,dirt, cooking odors, peanut allergies, and just about everything else. A better solution would be to seal up the apartments better.

    1. Agreed. You can find that point covered in the public comment C.L.A.S.H. submitted to HUD

  2. Many people would rather smoke cigarettes for relaxation and to take a break from anxiety and depression. Also, many people are on medical marijuana and since California is accepting all out of state patients to apply for a medical marijuana card with legal protection under the Compassionate Care Act, smoking is common! At least offer housing with the option of smoking or non-smoking based on current statistics. Common sense!

  3. Hey Audrey, I dropped by because you implied that you were going to reply HERE to my last comment in response to you on the ACSH site. Incidentally, I'm fervently praying (in a wholesomely secular way) that you were merely hoping to win sympathy for your viewpoint from Trump, or perhaps simply observing the rules of civility much too zealously, when you said in your letter to him, "We are elated to have elected to our White House two men who honor the rich traditions of our country and the fundamental beliefs on which it was founded." Elated? Trump honoring the rich traditions of our country? The fundamental beliefs?

    Glory, glory hallelujah, His truth is marching off a cliff!!!


    1. Before I go on to remark on the subject that really brought you here, I just want to say... keep praying. If I meant the words of this letter merely for the reasons you advance then they would sound more like the words you have used with me -- not stopping at complimentary but using it to massage the ego before delivering the slap that hopes to bring me to my senses (senses according to you).

      Moving on to the crux of our matter... My intent to write about my experience on ACSH's forum would be in response to the unwarranted censorship of my replies by the moderators (aka the president of ACSH and another staff member). It would not be about you except as a subplot since it was my last comment to you that was unceremoniously removed as well as one other more general comment on the subject at hand.

      So, yes, I do want to write about that but just haven't gotten around to it yet. In the meantime, here was my reply to your last comment:

      Except for pointing out that you didn't address what difference there is between making an informed choice to take a job that is dangerous to my life and making an informed choice to enjoy a risky (read not causative) legal product, I'm done here. Keep believing there are guarantees in life ("do X and you'll die" or "don't do X and you'll live") I can just see you wondering at your own last breathes, whose time cannot be known, why you are dying of nothing and spent precious time in your life telling others what they need to do to qualitatively live theirs. YOU know what's best for them and any objection "wrong-headed." I'm not jumping off a bridge, I'm sitting on the ledge enjoying the view. Having some need to spend time in your life nagging people that there's always a chance they might lose their balance and fall and that they must come to their senses and not sit there, then calling that nagging "concern," is unhealthy.

    2. Audrey, I'm GENUINELY puzzled! (I feel the need to emphasize the GENUINENESS of my emotions when interacting with you, a congenital skeptic!) I responded on the ACSH website to the reply you pasted above-- did you never see it? I, too, had some odd things happen to my posts on the ACSH website-- or, at least to that particular post. I posted it on Sunday, and later saw that it had disappeared. Thinking that some technical error on the ACSH website had occurred, I reposted it on Monday and periodically checked back to observe its fate: it was published after a few seconds, remained up for a few hours, and then, exactly as before, it disappeared without a word from ACSH. I was startled: I reread the post, scrutinizing it with the mindset of a censor, searching for anything that the most easily-offended sensibility might find objectionable-- but I detected nothing that even Mrs. Grundy would feel compelled to expurgate! So I wrote an email to ACSH asking for an explanation-- more out of simple curiosity than annoyance. Hank Campbell and I exchanged a couple of emails-- he initially asked me if the post contained 'links', which evidently are forbidden and trigger an automatic blocking of a post. I told him it didn't, and added that when I reposted it on Monday, it had been published and remained visible for hours before vanishing-- which strongly implies human intervention to cause its disappearance. His response to that made no sense to me at all-- I'll let you judge for yourself Audrey if you think his answer squares with the facts. Here, verbatim from Hank Campbell's email to me, is what he said, "It wasn't deleted, we don't control comments, that is what I meant when I said I had to log into Disqus (which is the engine we use for comments) directly in order to track it down. I found it in the moderation queue, which means it wasn't flagged as spam or offensive but it wasn't published. So I just manually approved it and it's there now. I agree with you, I can't see anything wrong with it. There were a few others stuck in limbo as well."

      Audrey, it's entirely possible that there's a defect in the Disqus software and posts that are not intended to be published immediately (while they await moderation) are sometimes nonetheless published-- and then, sometime later, the software recognizes that the post has yet been moderator-approved and it's temporarily deleted until it receives that approval. That interpretation of events blames a computer snafu for what occurred and exculpates all the humans at ACSH-- and therefore probably would not be readily accepted by you, Audrey!! (I take it you're none too pleased with the way ACSH deals with you-- I do agree that Alex gave you an unfairly hard time, bordering on disrespectful, in responding to your principal post.)

      Anyway, Audrey, you can go to the ACSH site now and see my post in response to your last substantive post there (the one you pasted in this blog). In fact, you can see it twice!! (My original post of my reply on Sunday, and my repeat post of it on Monday-- they're both there, consecutively!)

      I'll be very interested to read your reply to it, Audrey!!


    3. A quick correction: I meant to say, "the software recognizes that the post has not yet been moderator-approved"

    4. Part One:

      Audrey, I don’t kid myself: I’ve become increasingly convinced (to the point that now I’m utterly persuaded) that you are determined to be as indefatigable as necessary in fighting off what you perceive as some kind of attack on you by me. Right from my very first post, you decided that my every word deserves suspicious scrutiny because according to your theory of me and my inclinations, I’m a phony, patronizing manipulator-- even though you had no actual evidence of that.

      And like any bad theory (see for example Ptolemy’s geocentric theory of the solar system, where the sun, moon, stars and planets all revolved around the earth) YOUR theory about me and my intentions is not falsifiable. That’s the key attribute of an invalid theory-- it’s not falsifiable, because no matter what new information about me crops up, you always manage to fit it into the “He’s a phony, patronizing manipulator” framework that you’ve devised for me. Similarly, it didn’t matter to Ptolemy what new astronomical observations were made-- for example, the fact that some of the time, the planets appear to move backwards in the sky (retrograde motion, it’s called)-- he managed to accommodate the new information by adding new little wrinkles (in the case of retrograde motion, epicycles were added – little circles that the planet would travel in addition to the big circle of the orbit); his earth-centered theory grew incredibly complicated and arbitrary but he still clung to it because the TRUE theory-- a sun-centered solar system-- was psychologically unacceptable to him. And in the same way, the true theory of EternallyVigilant is unpalatable to you: i.e. that I like you, respect your intelligence, and admire the way you repelled your obnoxious opponents on the ACSH site while retaining not just your composure but your sense of humor-- and because of those appealing attributes of yours, I have, until now, considered it well worth my time to try to penetratingly explore the real-- and psychologically very deep-- roots of your passion for cigarettes in the hope that such an exploration may benefit you by having you confront the truth for the first time. That’s what I began to do in my last post on the ACSH site and precisely because that kind of honest conversation about the most fundamental things about you is so threatening to you, you chose not to respond at all.

    5. Part Two:

      You’re fighting and clawing to ‘defend yourself’ against me, but is your defense of yourself actually in your own worst interests?

      William Carlos Williams, a pediatrician by day and a writer by night, a long time ago-- when diphtheria still was a deadly scourge-- published a short story about a little girl every bit as willful as you, Audrey. Her parents summoned the doctor because their young daughter, Mathilda, had had a raging fever for three days, an ominous hint of diphtheria. Yet Mathilda denied having a sore throat, an invariable accompaniment of that fatal-if-untreated disease. So the narrator of the story, the doctor, had to examine the throat of Mathilda-- but Mathilda, with a ferocity that seemed impossible for such a little girl, resisted all the doctor’s attempts to get her to open her mouth so he could see her throat! The doctor first tried reason, then coaxing, then, with her parents’ assistance, a little force-- but nothing worked. Finally, with both doctor and patient drained and possibly a little bloody, the doctor managed to get a glimpse of Mathilda’s throat.

      Here’s how the story ends, Audrey. Tell me if your mind is free enough to see the psychological parallels between you and Mathilda:

      “And there it was--both tonsils covered with membrane. She had fought valiantly to keep me from knowing her secret. She had been hiding that sore throat for three days at least and lying to her parents in order to escape just such an outcome as this.

      Now truly she was furious. She had been on the defensive before but now she attacked. Tried to get off her father's lap and fly at me while tears of defeat blinded her eyes.”

      If, as I suspect, you find the idea of actually discussing the psychological underpinnings of your life-long romance with cigarettes as unbearable as Mathilda found the notion of letting the doctor see her diphtheria-coated tonsils, then perhaps you will instead respond to this other matter-- entirely unrelated to smoking-- that I also find interesting about you. You’re incredibly cynical about my motives, saying, to cite just one example, “If I meant the words of this letter [to Trump] merely for the reasons you advance then they would sound more like the words you have used with me -- not stopping at complimentary but using it to massage the ego before delivering the slap that hopes to bring me to my senses (senses according to you)."

      Now, I don’t know if you were born this distrustful, or it’s a result of particular events in your life, or perhaps an inevitable consequence for anyone who’s served a couple of decades with the NYPD where, I suspect, you’re likely to have been cursed out by New Yorkers in 42 different languages in the course of your career! But my question is: how is it possible that someone as smart and cynical as you really thinks that Trump honors the rich traditions and fundamental beliefs of our country? Can you not see right through Trump? He has no principles guiding his conduct whatsoever except one-- persuading the world that he’s the best... fill in the blank! The sharpest investor, the cleverest negotiator, the most skillful entrepreneur, the most talented and highest-rated reality show host, the man with the most beautiful wife, etc.… and when he merely was elected president, he wasn’t satisfied. He had to construct the fantasy that if only millions of people hadn’t voted illegally, he’d have won the popular vote too! And if, in order to be re-elected, he believes he has to put all Hispanics (citizens included) in Concentration Camps or has to drop a 50-megaton hydrogen bomb on North Korea (even if, ultimately, 10 million Americans die too) he’ll try to do it, and it’ll be a close question if the ‘rich traditions’ of our country prevent him from accomplishing his objective.

    6. I'd like to add "verbose" to my opinion of you. That said, it is only out of respect to the rules of civility that I reply. Because when I wrote on the 5th that "I'm done here" I meant it. I don't have time to debate one person (a person who is in no position to make the changes I want - e.g. a lawmaker) endlessly. I've said what I have to say and I do not have to explain myself to you. Please spend the time you would have spent here enjoying your own life.

    7. Okay, Audrey, I leave you to your fate. Vaya con dios. Unfortunately, unlike Mathilda, there’s no doctor to rescue you from the consequences of your own worst instincts.

  4. I think HUD senior housing is in violation of a person's Privacy Rights when they ban smoking in your unit I think they should have said Smokers of Cigarettes must have "Air Purtifiers" I am not a smoker but I think this rule is "Wrong"

  5. I think HUD senior housing is in violation of a person's Privacy Rights when they ban smoking in your unit I think they should have said Smokers of Cigarettes must have "Air Purtifiers" I am not a smoker but I think this rule is "Wrong"