THE INSIDE STORY of Zbig and the Passed-Up Pasta has just been revealed to me. When the National Security Adviser and his entourage were returning from Pakistan last winter, Jerrold Schecter, then Brezezinski's press secretary, announced a surprise stopover in Rome. It seems that a gala feast had been arranged at one of Rome's better restaurants, to which the entire party, press included, was invited. There was one condition; No one was to tell. But Bernard Gwertzman of the New York Times refused to sign the non-disclosure pact, and, a few hours later, Schecter announced that the stopover had been canceled -- nothing to do with Gwertzman, of course, just a change in plans.

It is my conviction that older women will be increasing prized. Who else will talk to you about something other than law school? . . . My last stand in the struggle to preserve some vestige of feminine grace is my proposal to outlaw the shoulder bag. These objects tend to make women tilt forward, and, depending on which shoulder supports the strap, either to the right or the left. The posture is that of a blocking guard clearing the way for a running back. And the result is that delight has disappeared from our sidewalks. Gone the soft, sensual step. Now the shoulder down, face scowling, mind tormented by torts and trusts.

If you had emerged on May 28 after having been suspended in a time capsule for the last 20 years or so, some headlines would have astonished you. Others would not. Among the latter was this one from The New York Times: Teamster Aide Found Guilty of Stealing $1 Million from 2 Union Funds

While the headline might have been unsurprising, the story itself would have demonstrated the progress that had been made in the theories of criminal defense while you were away. Defense attorneys claimed that their client had not stolen the $1 million but had merely taken it as "advance salary."

Ordinarily I like to think of myself as supporting reform, but there is one currently sponsored by the FCC that I must oppose. It is a proposal to eliminate clear channel radio stations. If you ever lived in rural America, you know the magic of a connection at night with faraway places like New Orleans. Or, if you're a baseball fan, as my friend Curtis Gans points out, you could always pick up the Cardinals on KMOX from St. Louis.

I'll probably vote for Carter, but I honestly don't think the actual performance of the government would differ much under Reagan or Anderson. Most of what the government does is determined by unaccountable bureaucrats, judges and lobbyists. Until we change that fact, changing the occupant of the White House is not going to change very much, unless, of course, we elect a truly great man or throw out a truly evil one. And even if we were to elect another FDR, there is real question as to how much he could accomplish. Remember, Roosevelt was able to bring into government literally hundreds of thousands of people who believed in the New Deal. If he were elected today, he could hire at most 2,000 who, he could be certain, cared about making his programs work.

A couple of years ago I noted that Carter doesn't like to have people smarter than he is around him. Recently I mentioned that observation to someone in a position to know and he said it is true not only of Carter but of Jordan and of people on down the line, so that by the time you approach the bottom, there are an awful lot of not very bright people on the White House staff. My source also confirmed another observation that I had never reported because I had seen it only once in an off-the-record situation: that in White House meetings, Jody Powell often speaks for Jimmy Carter's mean, petty, and defensive side. Many bosses have this kind of assistant. He permits the boss to appear to be a wonderful fellow, serenely above the battle, while making sure his real thoughts are injected into the meeting so that he can hear others' reactions to them. On some occasions, I am told, Gerald Rafshoon plays the same role, but is a bit more obvious about it than Powell.

Speaking of sports, my friend Julian Scheer points out that big business may be becoming like the big leagues. Take Ian MacGregor, the new head of British Steel. MacGregor became another Bill Walton when the British agreed to compensate Lazard Freres, his New York firm $4 million for his services. Next will come a trade -- say Tom Murphy of General Motors for Harry Grey of United Technologies and a financial officer to be named later.

In a more serious vein, The London Sunday Times asked itself why someone could not have been found among the ranks of British executives. Here is its answer:

"There is another way in which Mr. MacGregor is instructive. He is, after all, a Scot who has flourished mightily in America. He has made a career there which he could not have made at home. The British environment is a peculiar one. It is warm towards the pedestrian achievements of the bureaucrat and the professional, with their security of tenure and their absence of risk . . . Where it is strangely uneasy is with the high-flying manager, those people who combine leadership with imagination and flair to run the large businesses that provide an increasing proportion of our jobs and our national wealth.

"There is a cluster of reasons for this, an unsavory brew of bias, resentment, and class. In the prevailing climate it is all right for a lad to make a fortune as a pop star . . . But properly large rewards, let alone a degree of respect or admiration, for adventurous industrial leadership appear altogether offensive. Until that climate is changed, the higher reaches of industry will be thinly populated with talent . . ."

We shouldn't be smug about this, for something very much like it has been happening in America. Our culture -- at least its liberal branch -- tends to see the person who becomes an urban planning consultant as idealistic, while it looks down on someone who decides to be a building contractor. There is an assumption that businessmen are bad guys and that nonprofit is morally superior to profit. None of this tends to encourage the kind of entrepreneurship we need.

The Kansas City Star reports that a federal official accused of working on private business during working hours is seeking dismissal of the charge on the grounds that such behavior is "generally accepted" in the bureaucracy.