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John Baer | It's a year since my last confession

Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned.

OK, KIDS, here's my annual confession.

This is the year-end column in which I admit mistakes I made in the name of truth-seeking - some of them sort of technical, others just plain stupid.

For example, back in February, writing about the need for a new era in politics, and wondering whether Barack Obama might represent a chance for change, I referred to him as "O'Bama."

Next day, I got a note from an editor asking, "Who's this new Irish guy running?"

Stupid. Just stupid.

Speaking of names, I quoted the executive director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, Mary Isenhour, in a column, which was fine, except I labeled her Mary Eisenhower.

I don't know, just assumed, you know, a political person, a political job, and how cute that a Democrat would have the name Eisenhower.

A good reminder to always check things out. I was lazy.

In March, during a rant on excessive looting by past and present board members of PHEAA (the state's higher-ed loan agency), I noted that former state Rep. John Lawless once charged taxpayers $175 for falconry lessons while junketing at The (famous and posh) Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.

Falconry lessons?

Well, maybe he was trying to straighten up and fly right.

But I said Lawless worked for the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority. He doesn't. It's the Delaware River Port Authority.

My bad. Though I don't understand why we need to fund and staff so many goofy little fiefdoms so politicians have places to put their friends or those who have something on them.

In July, as the lame-o Legislature was getting set to leave town for the summer after approving its usual (fifth straight, actually) late state budget, I quoted a senior Senate aide saying that it was "unlikely" that a modest gun bill would see any action.

But the bill, introduced by Philly Rep. John Myers, did pass. It mandates tracing illegal guns (to which I said, What? It never occurred to anyone to do that?)

My lesson? Find better-informed Senate aides.

In September, when state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph Cappy announced that he was resigning at the end of the year, I noted that he did so too late for voters to pick a replacement for him in the November judicial elections.

I must have had brain freeze that day. Cappy's seat wasn't on the ballot this year, so he's replaced by gubernatorial appointment after he officially leaves in January.

In October, I wrote a column about a Dauphin County (Harrisburg) grand jury investigating a gambling license and said that there are too many interlaced connections in the state's judicial and political community and so the gambling probe should be done by the feds.

I should have said, as a matter of full disclosure, that my older son, John C. Baer, is a Dauphin County deputy district attorney. Even though he's not involved in the gambling investigation, my son's boss runs it and I should have noted that.

And, finally, in a November column about the lack of promised reforms in the Legislature, I hit the touted Speaker's Commission on Legislative Reform for failing to push for a smaller Legislature, term limits or even less spending.

Two outta three ain't bad.

While it's true the commission punted on the first two, it did recommend cutting operating costs 10 percent to save $32 million.

What I should have said was that the greedy, do-nothing-but-flush-away-tax-dollars-every-year leadership refused to consider cutting astronomical, indefensible costs of the nation's largest full-time Legislature.

So there you have it. Mistakes were made. And I made them. And next year I hope this column is shorter. *

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