We'll miss The Examiner, on several fronts

The Baltimore Sun

This town isn't big enough for two Michael Phelpses.

Baltimore still has its Olympic superstar, but it is losing the newspaper with the like-named CEO.

And it is a loss.

Of local color.

(We'll miss The Baltimore Examiner's "Bludgeoned!" "INSANE?" and other punchy New York Post-style headlines.)

Of social status.

(I never felt richer than when The Examiner, supposedly delivered only to the most affluent homes in Baltimore, made its first, surprise appearance on my humble Southwest Baltimore driveway. I'd arrived!)

Of employment options.

(Even if Examiner Editor Frank Keegan never did call back to discuss that job offer he randomly left on my voice mail in May, the paper gave some young, hardworking reporters - not to mention some less young, ex-Baltimore Sun colleagues - another place to ply their trade. Especially given the newspaper industry's woes, no one wants to see more out-of-work journalists.)

That said, there are a few upsides to the tabloid's demise, seemingly announced by the last two days' screaming fronts: "WE ARE IN TROUBLE" and "NO CONFIDENCE."

Sheila Dixon's "Cleaner, Greener" campaign will get a boost as all those "No Free Newspapers" signs come down.

And Robert Clay can finally rest in peace.

Clay, a prominent businessman, killed himself in 2005, according to the state medical examiner, city police and the FBI. The Examiner has never bought that explanation, just as it's never bought the city's homicide figures, and the paper wrote many a story to that effect.

The Sun, too, has reported questions surrounding Clay's death and the murder tally. But The Examiner went further. It all but accused City Hall of hiding bodies to keep the homicide count down. It even insinuated that Clay was offed because he'd challenged then-Mayor Martin O'Malley's minority contracting practices.

It wasn't all conspiracies. The paper had some good scoops, and the competition was good for The Sun. Too bad they couldn't even give it away.

Obama pokes fun at wimpiness

President Barack Obama poked some fun at the winter-weather wimpiness that closed Washington's Sidwell Friends School as well as schools across Maryland the other day.

"My children's school was canceled today because of what? Some ice?" he said Wednesday to the amusement of a group gathered to discuss economics, a science more dismal than meteorology.

"As my children pointed out, in Chicago school is never canceled," Obama went on. "In fact, my 7-year-old pointed out that, you'd go outside for recess in weather like this. ... We're going to have to try to apply some flinty Chicago toughness to this town."

Obama got plenty of laughs, but Mother Jones had the last one. On its blog, the magazine recalled how, months ago, it had made a "meager plea" to the Obamas to consider sending their children to D.C. public schools. Those schools had only a delayed opening Wednesday.

"Hopefully someone will point out to the president that the city's public schools were showing plenty of flint this morning," Mother Jones wrote. "It was only Washington's elite who were afraid of a little ice."

Legal eagle, Oriole bird

Mayor Dixon has herself a legal eagle and, it seems, an Oriole bird.

Before he became law partner to Dixon defense attorney Arnold Weiner, Barry Gogel played the Orioles mascot.

From 1990 to 1994, while Gogel worked as a Western High School teacher, he donned a bird suit to entertain baseball fans.

"It was something I did in college," said Gogel, 42, who played the University of Vermont catamount. "I found it a lot of fun."

Even so, he kept his moonlighting under wraps.

"It was a secret from my high school students at the time," he said.

He's still pretty mum about his days as the bird, a secret identity brought to an end by law school and the baseball strike.

"I'd like to be taken as a serious attorney in my own right," said Gogel.

On-field antics might appeal to some clients. Wouldn't our indicted mayor want a lawyer capable of cartwheels and back flips?

Gogel declined to discuss how he is involved in Dixon's defense.

Weiner has said only that he can trust Gogel not to blab about the case to WBAL weekend anchor Deborah Weiner, their daughter and wife, respectively.

Hottest pols

Under the slogan "Objectify the Vote," the Web site lemondrop.com has come up with a list of the nation's 50 hottest male politicians. Not to be outdone, its sister site asylum.com drew up with a list of hot female pols.

The winners in Maryland: U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, who is pictured at a No Child Left Inside event with a furry critter on one shoulder; and state Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, who appears in red blazer and pearls.

"Sarbanes followed his dad, Paul, into politics," Lemondrop writes. "Adorable. And he's not afraid to get cute and cuddly with a palm civet, too!"

Of Haddaway-Riccio, Asylum writes: "The State House's assistant minority whip can punish us any time. Preferably by whip."

Sarbanes' office declined to comment. Haddaway-Riccio, who represents Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot and Wicomico counties, said she was "a little embarrassed."

"I think my husband is more excited about it than I am," she said.

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