Your RDA of Irony

Friday’s Musings

As New Lawyer, Senator Gillibrand Defended Big Tobacco

The Philip Morris Company did not like to talk about what went on inside its lab in Cologne, Germany, where researchers secretly conducted experiments exploring the effects of cigarette smoking.

So when the Justice Department tried to get its hands on that research in 1996 to prove that tobacco industry executives had lied about the dangers of smoking, the company moved to fend off the effort with the help of a highly regarded young lawyer named Kirsten Rutnik.

Ms. Rutnik, who now goes by her married name, Gillibrand, threw herself into the work. She traveled to Germany at least twice, interviewing the lab’s top scientists, whose research showed a connection between smoking and cancer but was kept far from public view.

She helped contend with prosecution demands for evidence and monitored testimony of witnesses before a grand jury, following up with strategy memos to Philip Morris’s general counsel.

Senator Gillibrand now apologizes for what she terms “a misunderstanding.”  “I thought that the tests were for a link between smoking and toboggans.  Of course, you toboggan in cold weather, when you can see your breath.  And that does look like smoke.”

Upon further questioning, the Senator explained “I went to Dartmouth.  So I was probably drunk; in fact, I might be now.”

When Stars Twitter, a Ghost May Be Lurking

But someone has to do all that writing, even if each entry is barely a sentence long. In many cases, celebrities and their handlers have turned to outside writers — ghost Twitterers, if you will — who keep fans updated on the latest twists and turns, often in the star’s own voice.


 You may know that Iran’s President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has a blog. Did you know that I was ghostwriting it? This actually was one of the more reputable jobs that I found on Craigslist. So, of course, you want to know what Mahmud is really like.

I have no idea. I only know what I am told by his p.r. department, the typical collection of burned out reporters and bored debutantes. My supervising editor was Fatima Ahmadinejad. (No relative, because Moslems don’t count sisters.) Her instructions were to make Mahmud folksy, engaging and warm. I asked if he should be humorous. This question required a departmental conference and then a Sharia judgment. I was finally told that he could be funny so long as he did not seem Jewish or gay. So humor was out.

I ended up ghostwriting his movie reviews. If you are not familiar with the Iranian rating system, here is an explanation:

Excellent film: two thumbs up, and no hostages. (For example, the slightly edited musical “Seven Brides for One Brother”)

Good film: one thumb up, and no more than three hostages. (“The Virgin Suicide Bombers”)

Fair: one thumb cut off, and four to eight hostages. (“Edward Scimitarhands”)

Poor: don’t ask. (Anything with Jews)

John McEnroe Duped in Art Scam

Former tennis champion John McEnroe was duped along with Bank of America, investment firms, art owners and collectors in a sophisticated $88 million art investment scam revealed in New York on Thursday.


I am pleading guilty.  I offered time shares in the Sistine Chapel.

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