By Jefferson Flanders

In the words of New York’s “man-about-town” Jimmy Cannon, nobody asked me, but…

AFTER AN INTERVENTION, OF SORTS, BY THE DALAI LAMA, supermodel Elle Macpherson has dropped her lawsuit challenging rival Heidi Klum’s right to use the nickname “The Body.” Does this sharing of the nickname mean a global Zen-like harmonic convergence is nigh?

MARK WARNER’S DECISION TO EXIT THE 2008 PRESIDENTIAL RACE makes North Carolina’s John Edwards the big winner, not Hillary Clinton, as some have argued. Warner’s departure from the contest strengthens Edwards’ claim to be the centrist Democrat who can run more than a 16-state campaign.

The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza sees the surprise move by the former Virginia governor as benefitting Evan Bayh, another moderate Democratic presidential hopeful. But Edwards’ head-start makes him the clear Hillary-alternative for those worried about Mrs. Clinton’s electability.

MARTIN SCORSESE’S THE DEPARTED is great movie-making, with its intertwined Boston Irish cops-and-robbers tale and a cast featuring some of today’s top American male actors; perhaps only the first Godfather film or On the Waterfront boasted as much masculine star power in one movie.

Director Scorsese elicits several memorable performances; he keeps Jack Nicholson just within bounds in his portrayal of a Whitey Bulger-like crime boss; Leonardo DiCaprio summons up a new, appealing toughness; and Matt Damon gives us the classic “young man on the make,” hiding his ruthlessness behind a careerist front. Mark Wahlburg, a South Boston native, makes the easiest acting jump with his foul-mouthed state cop, and Vera Farmiga acquits herself well as the love interest in the movie (though her screen time is limited).

NED LAMONT will spend some $8.7 million of his own money on his bid to unseat Joe Lieberman in the race for the U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut. It will be interesting to do the math after the general election and calculate how much Lamont, the Democratic Party nominee, ends up spending on a per-voter basis. (But, as the saying goes, if you have to ask “how much?” then you can’t afford it.)

JACK BANTA, a former Brooklyn Dodgers’ reliever, died last month at the age of 81 in Hutchinson, Kansas. Banta’s moment of sporting glory came in October 1949 when he won the final game of the season for the Brooks against the Phillies, clinching the pennant for the Dodgers.

It was a redemption of sorts for Banta, because the lanky righthander had blown a save against the Phillies the week before at Ebbets Field, a loss that—at the time—appeared to have knocked the Dodgers out of the National League pennant race. Banta also pitched in three games in the 1949 World Series which the Bums lost to the hated New York Yankees.

HOW ON EARTH DID THE FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION once rule (in 2003) that the “Howard Stern Show” was a “bona fide news interview” program? I missed the ruling when it first came down, but it was cited after California Democrat and gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides asked NBC for equal time on the Tonight show after an appearance by incumbent Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger. The New York Times archly noted that:

“If a show that regularly features women in various stages of undress, sometimes engaged in lewd acts with fruit, was declared a news program, some legal analysts suggested Mr. Leno’s show might likely pass the same test.”

If the “Howard Stern Show” is a news program, then the word “news” has lost all meaning. (Do you think the FEC actually meant “nude program?”)

THE HISTORICAL RECKONING for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will not be kind: his management of the Army in the Iraq conflict does not stand up to close inspection. Bob Herbert of the New York Times reports:

“While most Americans are free to go about their daily business, unaffected by the wars in any way, scores of thousands of troops have been sent off on repeat tours into the combat zones. According to the support group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, two-thirds of the 92,000 Army troops deployed this year are on at least their second deployment.”

These multiple tours of duty in a combat zone are a result of Rumsfeld’s decision to fight on the cheap. The human costs have been significant.

GONZO JOURNALIST MATT TAIBBI offers a mordantly hilarious send-up of 9/11 conspiracy theories at AlterNet. Taibbi imagines the “conspirators” George Bush, Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney plotting the 9/11 attacks (as many conspiracy buffs believe they did):

“RUMSFELD: Well, I’m sold on the idea. Let’s call the Joint Chiefs, the FAA, the New York and Washington DC fire departments, Rudy Giuliani, all three networks, the families of a thousand fictional airline victims, MI-5, the FBI, FEMA, the NYPD, Larry Eagleburger, Osama bin Laden, Noam Chomsky and the fifty thousand other people we’ll need to pull this off. There isn’t a moment to lose!

BUSH: Don’t forget to call all of those Wall Street hotshots who donated $100 million to our last campaign. They’ll be thrilled to know that we’ll be targeting them for execution as part of our thousand-tentacled modern-day bonehead Reichstag scheme! After all, if we’re going to make martyrs — why not make them out of our campaign paymasters? S—, didn’t the Merrill Lynch guys say they needed a refurbishing in their New York offices?”

Taibbi’s piece skewers the 9/11 Truth Movement with wit and spot-on sarcasm.

CAN THE DISGRACED MARK FOLEY, former Florida Congressman and creepy pursuer of House pages, now be allowed to slink into well-deserved obscurity?

Reprinted from Neither Red nor Blue

Copyright © 2006 Jefferson Flanders
All rights reserved

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