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Topics that won't see light of day

Here are some columns I would never have the gumption to write: I. "Does Paul Krugman Have a Personality Disorder?"

A columnist has two solemn duties, to make provocative arguments and to get read. New York Times scribbler Krugman scores in the top percentile on both counts. He may be the best in the business right now -- he also has a day job, as a distinguished economics professor at Princeton -- and I think a visit from Mr. P., as in Pulitzer, is only a matter of time.

That said, he is completely crackers. Ever since he assumed the most visible perch in journalism, Krugman seems startled to learn that people will take potshots at him. Krugman devotes considerable energy to tilting with his "enemies" -- many of them simply Internet kooks -- whom he perceives to be persecuting him. In addition to penning his Times columns, he writes frequently for his personal web site (www.wws.princeton

.edu/pkrugman), a nutty, score-settling tote board where he fires his rhetorical blunderbuss at the gnats buzzing around him. Here is the beginning of his latest entry, titled "The Smear Machine Cranks Up Again": "Unbelievable. The smear machine cranks up again. They've done it to me before, they did it to Joseph Wilson, and now they're trying to do it again." In an e-mail, Krugman explains that "the `nonentities' who go after me include Taranto at Wall Street Journal Online -- he was the main source for the claim that I was in Mahathir's pay -- Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus, etc."

Paul, nine out of 10 New York Times readers have no idea who you are talking about. Good columnists make enemies. Take the chill pill and put the energy to better use.

II. "Walk for Hunger Some Place Else, OK?"

I live in one of the many neighborhoods invaded every year by thousands of well-fed families tromping along in their designer footwear, purportedly battling world hunger. I could think of so many better uses for their time. Perhaps they could stay at home, skip one meal out of five, and send the savings to Name of Benighted Country to Be Inserted Here. From the looks of things, that might alleviate both starvation abroad and obesity at home.

Better idea: Send a hungernik around to all the neighborhoods where streets will be closed and traffic disrupted and offer the residents a $10 opt-out provision. If everyone on a block ponies up a Hamilton, the voracious Hunger People will swarm somewhere else. I realize this could result in what Paul Krugman would call beggar-thy-neighbor economic gridlock, but it would be worth a try.

Similar, never-to-be-written column in this vein: "Has Bono Saved the World Yet?"

III. "Has Anyone Ever Read a Book by `Stanley Bing'?"

There was a period in my life, now referred to as the Lost Weekend, when I was a business reporter. (This lasted eight years.) Then and now, I always marveled at the many reviews, puffs, and blurbs garnered by the work of "Stanley Bing," a pseudonym for Gil Schwartz, CBS's executive vice president for communications.

Schwartz is obviously a public-relations genius, because for more than 20 years I have seen references to his wonderful collections of witty columns -- first in Esquire, now in Fortune -- and brilliant novels in all the best publications. But I have never met anyone who has read a "Bing" book. I asked a New York Times business columnist. No. A friend of mine who has written 20 business books. No. A colleague here at the Globe said he had started the "Bing" novel, "Lloyd: What Happened," but hadn't found his way to the end. My friend has written about television, and may again, so he declined further comment. "I am generally sympathetic to your premise," Schwartz tells me. "Let's say there are 300 million people in the United States, and so far only 300,000 of them have read my books. The upside on my work is huge." It seems only fair to mention that Schwartz/Bing has two books out now, another collection of columns and a novel, and that the reviews have been fabulous.

Drat -- out of space. But there are other columns I would never dare write, for instance, "Is Christmas Necessary?" [You did that a few years back -- Ed.] Well, then how about this one: "Does Hope Really Spring Eternal?"

Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is

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