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Mistakes I've made (it's not the song)

As another year comes to an end, time for this columnist’s annual confession to errors made in print or online

HEY, KIDS, gather around.

Time to make fun of the thinks-he-knows-it-all newspaper columnist.

Yep, it's my annual mea culpa, in which I confess to errors of judgment and/or fact in stuff I wrote in the year now ending.

This is done on the theory that those with the privilege of a public voice have a responsibility to acknowledge mistakes made in using that voice.

So here goes. Let's count the ways.

1. Back in January, in a column on the coming presidential race, I wrote that Republicans would turn to Jeb Bush as their nominee to face Hillary Clinton.

I based this on Bush's decades-long family connections to the sorts of donors capable of funding presidential campaigns.

Talk about a bad call.

Didn't see The Donald or Cruz coming; never thought Bush's money wouldn't matter; didn't anticipate Jeb's being Bush-whacked as a "low-energy" candidate.

And while a possible brokered convention in July holds at least potential for a Bush resurrection, it's probably best just to admit that I got it wrong.

2. In March, I made a mistake in a "Baer Growls" blog.

A blog, by the way, is journalists' quicksand, a place where truth and facts can sink and disappear.

I was blogging about former Gov. Tom Corbett's pension (he took $118,378 in a lump sum and gets $38,765 annually) and mentioned recent governors' take, which is less, since Corbett also served six years as attorney general.

But I wrote that former Gov. Tom Ridge served eight years. He did not. He took office in January 1995. He left office in October 2001 to become the nation's first head of Homeland Security.

My error was both stupid (since I covered Ridge closely in both offices) and inexcusable (since I could have easily looked up his dates of service).

3. In June, in a column about the then- (and evermore-) pending state budget, I began with a reference to the Ides of June.

Except it was June 15, which is not the Ides of June.

Ides are part of the Roman calendar, based on phases of the moon. They do not occur on the same day every month. They fall on the 15th of March, May, July and October. In other months, including June, they're on the 13th.

My error, again, was insufficient research - and too much reliance on past reading of the plays of Shakespeare.

Worse, it was at the start of a column. So, for readers who caught it, everything after that became suspect.

4. In a July column about Katie McGinty's resigning as Gov. Wolf's chief of staff to run for the U.S. Senate, I committed the sin of word omission.

In noting the state's penchant for ticket-splitting and party splitting, I suggested that McGinty's bid to join Bob Casey, giving Pennsylvania two Democratic senators at once, was a historic long shot.

I wrote that since the 1800s, it had happened only once, in the 1940s.

I was wrong. In 2009, then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter switched parties and joined Casey as a Democrat.

I should have written since the 1800s we had only once had two senators elected as Democrats.

No excuse. Just sloppy journalism.

5. Finally, in a column just before Thanksgiving, I wrote about shoddy political leadership, about how unity of purpose, goals, and ends seems foreign to elected officials.

I cited two historic events aimed at unifying the nation: Lincoln's speech at Gettysburg, and his proclamation setting a national date for Thanksgiving. (It earlier varied from state to state.)

The error? I wrote that both occurred in 1864. They both occurred in 1863.

(And no ageist wisecracks such as, "Weren't you there?")

My bad. A flat-out factual mistake.

The late Otis Redding sang, "Everybody makes a mistake sometime."

My goal (in print/online) is to stop being like everybody.