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The Baer Facts 

Heard any good dirty jokes lately? Seen any titillating Internet videos? If you're interested in either, send Louisiana State Senate Secretary Mike Baer an email. Word is he's got plenty of both.

But make sure you're on his "good" email list and not on his "oops" list.

Baer stepped in some serious digital doo-doo recently when he "accidentally" forwarded an email containing sexual jokes and a racy video to Senate staffers -- and even to some staffers in Gov. Kathleen Blanco's office.

Boy, talk about bad timing. We get our first woman governor, and what does Baer do? He sends her staff a dirty video.

That, after dissing one of her senior aides during the transition and getting the new guv in a snit over comments he made about her team's inaugural plans.

That's not the end of Baer's recent flubs. On election night last autumn, Baer appeared as an on-air analyst for WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge. As results were coming in, he commented that commissioners in African-American precincts might not report vote totals correctly.

Am I the only one who sees a pattern here?

The Senate elects Baer to his secretarial post, and he has been a fixture in the Upper Chamber for decades. Every time we get a new governor and/or a new Senate president, there's talk of his removal. Over the years, however, he has remained as immovable as the marble statues in the Capitol Rotunda.

New Senate President Don "Doc" Hines, who was anointed by Blanco, has thus far followed form and defended Baer. When news broke of Baer's email snafu, Baer apologized and blamed it all on his own lack of computer sophistication. Hines accepted the apology and explanation, but that may be changing.

Anybody who knows anything about the Senate and Baer knows that he is far from a computer novice. In fact, his absolute dominion over the Senate information systems may be one of the reasons for his long tenure. He not only presides over the system, he knows it better than anyone else and keeps very tight controls over it, according to numerous sources. Far from being a computer boob (pardon the pun), Baer stands in the highest echelons of the Capitol's computer cognoscenti.

Thus, his assertion that he meant to hit the "delete" button but instead hit the "send to everybody who shouldn't see this" button makes no sense whatsoever. In fact, no computer or email system known to man works that way. Most unwanted emails can be deleted by highlighting them and hitting "delete." However, they can only be forwarded by first hitting the "forward" button and then by affirmatively placing new addresses on them. That's too many keystrokes to accidentally forward something you're trying to delete.

What probably happened, say sources, is that Baer meant to forward the email to one group of recipients but accidentally forwarded it to another group. Regular recipients can be lumped together as a "group" on a computer, and the two groups reportedly are listed next to one another on Baer's computer. The former is said to include select lobbyists, lawmakers and even some reporters (not this one) who occasionally receive such emails from Baer. The latter obviously is a group of honorable folks who expect to receive only official correspondence on their state-owned computers. How such people got jobs in state government may be the real mystery here, but that's another story.

When word broke last week that Baer's initial explanation may itself need to be deleted, Hines seemed a little less inclined to support Baer. "He told me that it was accidental," Hines said to the Associated Press. "I've been hearing that it's possible it was not."

Duh.

If anybody with any kind of computer knowledge -- say, anybody with the sophistication of your average 12-year-old or better -- is assigned the task of investigating the Baer facts, the Senate secretary may face a hostile chamber when lawmakers convene for the regular session on March 29. The heat could come sooner if legislators meet in special session before then.

Then again, without Baer, who'll be there to show senators how to use their computers -- or how to save all the good jokes and sleazy videos they get via email?

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