One of the most important things a gossip column must have is the "blind item."

When you use people's names you can be sued, so blind items are safe -- yet the reader is intrigued as to whom the item is all about. I usually don't use the items, but I collect them. Here are a few:

A White House aide has been called before the grand jury investigating who leaked the name of a CIA agent to columnist Robert Novak, which caused Judy Miller to go to jail for 85 days.

A former secretary of education and conservative broadcaster said the best way to stop crime was to give black women abortions -- but added that it was a stupid and ridiculous idea. African Americans were furious because the secretary was saying they were responsible for all the crime in the United States.

A commander in chief of the armed forces told the public that we would prevail in Iraq because we had right on our side, and that we were the only country that could protect the Iraqis until their own troops could do the job -- no matter how long that took and how much it would cost.

Conservatives are up in arms about the president chosing a woman for a seat on the Supreme Court because they feared she wasn't conservative enough and they didn't know where she stood on Roe v. Wade or the Pledge of Allegiance.

A former head of FEMA who testified he had done a fabulous job and everyone else was to blame is back in the Arabian horse-breeding business.

This just in from Los Angeles -- word is out that a big-time movie star and Scientologist's girlfriend is going to have a baby and the Scientologist says after the baby is delivered, the mother will take no pills for postpartum depression.

A Republican congressman indicted on charges of money-laundering is one of the best golfers in the House.

Washington is still talking about the little boy who shouted "The emperor has no clothes!" after Hurricane Katrina. A spokesman for the emperor said it wasn't true, but just another political smear.

Rumor has it that a certain vicious dictator, who will be tried for crimes against humanity, will plead not guilty, get $10 million for his book and appear on the covers of both Time and Newsweek in the same week. His people are talking about an exclusive interview with Barbara Walters and a movie deal starring Russell Crowe.

Investigators are still searching for the dog that was used to torture prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Gossip has it that conservatives are furious at a certain president because he is not conservative enough. And liberals are angry because he is not liberal enough, and his White House staff thinks he is perfect.

Police arrested a baseball player when they found steroids in the glove compartment of his car after he hit a home run in the fifth inning. He said they were left there by a teammate who hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth.

A televangelist who claims he believes in God called for the assassination of the president of Venezuela.

Those are only a few of the blind items I have collected. Thank heaven my leakers keep throwing them over the transom every day.

(c)2005 Tribune Media Services