It was clear to anyone roaming through the channels last week that the stupid shift was working overtime at the factory of nonsense otherwise known as the Real Time With Bill Maher show on HBO.
Billowing out from behind the orotund self-regard and convivial asskissing on the season finale was an impenetrably dense haze of idiocy, whoppers, errors and doozies, turning your own personal TV into a spillcam of pluming mistakes.
Missing in action for much of the night was the truth, chased away by the hemorrhoidal factitious rectitude that is and always will be the order of the night in the House of Maher.
In the dock: Panelists Jon Meacham of Newsweek, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show," and former Senator Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).
Joining later and adding to the general haze was the high priest of conspiracy, the fantabulist Oliver Stone, swinging his censer of malice, as mean-spirited disregard for the truth was the incense of the hour.
Many of the errors inflicted on the general population were easily avoidable, as the information is retrieved via a simple Bing or Google search. Hyperlinks provided.
From the California elections, to drilling for oil, to claims about the US military, little was left unmolested (for similar fare, see "Factchecking the President," June 2).
Fox News analyst James Farrell has factchecked some of the biggest doozies, based on government andmarket data.
***WARNING: UPON READING, YOUR HEAD MAY EXPLODE***
MAHER PANEL CLAIM: Republican California Senate candidate and former Hewlett-Packardchief executive "Carly Fiorina was paid by HP to go away because she sent jobs overseas." FBN Factcheck: INCORRECT.
* Hewlett-Packard forced Fiorina to resign in 2005 primarily due to a plunge in the company's stock price, missed earnings targets, internal clashes over the merger with PC maker Compaq, and poor relations with the board as well as with William Hewlett, son of one of the founders, not because she 'sent jobs overseas,' a dubious claim to begin with (see below). It was the poor stock price performance on her watch that really hurt. HP was trading at $52 a share when Fiorina became CEO in July, 1999. Five and a half years later, when Fiorina left in February, 2005, it was down more than 60% to $21 a share. Meanwhile, HP rival Dell's stock price had risen, though only slightly, during this time from, an increase from $37 to $40 per share.
MAHER PANEL CLAIM: "Carly Fiorina got in trouble at HP because she sent jobs overseas." FBN Factcheck: INCORRECT AND UNFOUNDED.
Again, Fiorina lost her job at HP for the reasons cited above, not for sending jobs overseas. Also, a number of news organizations have run into trouble finding any truth to the claim. For example, the St. Petersburg Times' fact-checking site, Politifact, tried to fact check an identical claim by the campaign for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), that Fiorina outsourced more HP jobs at a higher rate than the growth rate in HP jobs stateside: "When we finished our reporting, we couldn't agree among ourselves on a Truth-O-Meter rating because the evidence isn't clear-cut."
* Instead, Politifact noted that it is undisputed that Fiorina actually increased the number of HP jobs worldwide during her tenure, but that it could not be determined if the U.S. workforce grew during her tenure. It said:
"Fiorina admits that workers were laid off, but said the overall workforce grew. To check these claims, we turned to the stock filings that Hewlett-Packard is required to file with the Securities Exchange Commission. Those filings showed a worldwide workforce of 84,400 in 1999, right after Fiorina became CEO. After the Compaq merger, the workforce hit 141,000 in 2002. That number grew every year for the rest of Fiorina's tenure. In 2005, just after her departure, it reached 150,000. (Last year, the number was 304,000.)"
Politifact added: "Some things to keep in mind: These are worldwide numbers, and the biggest gains came because of Hewlett-Packard's acquisition of other companies. Figuring out how many jobs Fiorina added to the U.S. workforce is difficult because the company does not routinely break out U.S. employees from its worldwide workforce."
Politifact noted: "Likewise, the Los Angeles Times looked in depth at Fiorina's hiring record in California and found the claims [that more HP jobs were outsourced on her watch] difficult to back up through proxy statements. It found that the company said it had 74,000 U.S. workers in 2002; 60,000 in 2004; and 80,000 in early 2006."
Politifact concluded: "That would potentially indicate a dip and then a rise during Fiorina's tenure, but again, it's difficult to say whether the job gains were the results of mergers or business growth. The numbers came from various news reports about HP, not from official filings made on a regular basis. Fiorina wasn't shy about saying that some jobs ended up overseas. But domestically, it's difficult to tell if job gains outweighed layoffs, which made us hesitate to issue an official ruling."
MAHER PANEL CLAIM: Former Massachusetts governor "Mitt Romney at Bain Management ... sent jobs overseas." FBN Factcheck: UNFOUNDED AND MISLEADING.
* Romney worked at Bain & Co.'s Bain Capital, a private equity firm that invested in start-ups and established firms as well as leveraged buyouts. It is impossible to verify how many jobs Bain reduced or reorganized in troubled client companies, as well as how many involved expanding foreign operations or reducing U.S. operations, since Bain is a privately held firm that does not have to file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
* However, as the Boston Globe noted in 2007: "It's impossible to say precisely if more jobs were created than cut by Bain [Capital under Mitt Romney] since the firm does not track employment in its investments. But Bain officials say the companies in which they invested added more jobs than they cut."
MAHER PANEL CLAIM: "Drilling for oil is more dangerous than ever before."
FBN Factcheck: INCORRECT. * There were 120 fatal injuries in the oil and gas extraction industry in 2008 (latest data), compared with 122 in 2007 and 125 in 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
* The rate of injuries and illnesses in the oil and gas industry ranged from four per 100 full-time workers in 2003 to 6.8 in 2004, with a rate of 4.6 in 2007 (latest BLS data).
* The rate of 4.6 injuries/illnesses per 100 full-time workers in the oil and gas drilling industry in 2007 was only "a little higher than the rate of 4.2 per 100 full-time workers for all industries," according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
* While BP has a terrible track record when it comes to safety, with more than 2 dozen deaths and 170 workers injured, the oil and industry overall actually is safer than other industries. It is more dangerous to work in cattle ranching and farming, construction, and highway, street, and bridge construction, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more, see bottom of this column.
MAHER PANEL CLAIM: "The U.S. Military is the biggest organization in the world."
FBN Factcheck: INCORRECT.
The panel didn't define what it meant by "organization," or "biggest," but on both headcount and dollars and cents benchmarks, this claim falls apart. With 1.47 million men and women on active duty, and more than 718,000 civilian personnel, the United States Department of Defense is the United States' largest employer, data from the Defense Dept.'s "DOD Personnel and Military Casualty Statistics" show.
But that 2.2 million total figure pales in comparison to:
- China's military, which is an estimated 7.6 million strong, according to the Center for Strategic and International studies (it's active duty service members at 2.3 million is nearly twice as large as the United States' active duty force); - Russia's military at 3.8 million, according to the Center for Stratetic and International Studies; - AFL-CIO: 11.4 million members in 2009; - "Change to Win": 4.9 million members in 2009. "Change to Win" is an umbrella group of union members from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), United Farm Workers of America (UFW), and United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW); - National Education Association: 3.2 million members in 2009; - Girl Scouts USA: 3.3 million members; - Boy Scouts of America: 2.8 million youth members and more than 1.1 million volunteers, - AARP: 40 million members.
* The U.S. accounted for 43% of worldwide military spending in 2009, at $663 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. However, the Royal Bank of Scotland has $3.5 trillion in assets, Barclays has $2.9 trillion, same for DeutscheBank and BNP Paribas. The US Federal Reserve has more than $2 trillion in assets.
MAHER PANEL CLAIM: "The U.S. Military is bigger than other countries' militaries combined." FBN Factcheck: INCORRECT.
*Active duty service members in the United States accounted for just 1.47 million of the 27.5 million active duty military personnel worldwide in 2008, the latest data available, according to the World Bank, which bases its research on government data. "This means that the US armed forces accounted for approximately 5% of the total worldwide active duty military personnel, using the World Bank's definition of an 'active duty' person," says Fox News' Farrell.
* The World Bank defines active duty military personnel as including both active duty personnel as well as paramilitary forces if the training, organization, equipment, and control suggest they may be used to support or replace regular military forces.
MAHER PANEL CLAIM: "Republicans are now doing a record number of filibusters, more than has ever been done in U.S. history." FBN Factcheck: INCORRECT.
* In the current Congress, the 111th Congress, there have been 98 cloture motions filed and 58 cloture votes between January 3, 2009 and May 28, 2010, Congressional data show. A cloture vote is a vote taken to break a filibuster.
* That compares to 139 cloture motions filed and 112 cloture votes in the 110th Congress (from January 4, 2007 through January 2, 2009), when President Bush was in office.
* So the number of cloture votes in the current Congress (58) is approximately half the number of cloture votes in the 110th Congress when President Bush was in office (112 cloture votes). It's also less than the 61 cloture votes by the 107th Congress (January 3, 2001 through November 22, 2002), again, when President Bush was in office.
MAHER PANEL CLAIM: "The Republicans are putting a filibuster on every piece of legislation of consequence. That's unprecedented in U.S. history." FBN Factcheck: MISLEADING.
It is correct that the Republicans, with occasional Democratic support, have attempted to block significant legislation that ran contrary to what they say are the party's fundamental beliefs in the proper role of government and to rein in spending. For example, the Republicans have attempted to filibuster significant legislation such asfinancial reform legislation--joined by Democratic Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb.)--as well as health care reform, extensions of federal unemployment compensation, and the stimulus bill. But it isn't as if the Republicans are reflexively opposing every piece of legislation the Dems support. According to the U.S. Senate's Cloture Motions data for the 111th Congress, other filibusters have related to:
- A bill that authorized overtime to the Capitol Police (H.R.1299: United States Capitol Police Administrative Technical Corrections Act of 2009);
- A bill that, among other things, appropriated funds to the House of Representatives for a payment to Joyce Murtha, widow of former Rep. John P. Murtha (H.R.4899: Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2010);
- Authorization to sunset the application of the sustainable growth rate formula for Medicare--a filibuster supported by 13 Democrat or Independent Senators (S. 1776: Medicare Physicians Fairness Act of 2009);
- Overlooked is the Republicans' vote to pass bills such as the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, the largest single piece of conservation legislation in 15 years, and Senate approval for strengthening supervision of the TARP, the bank bailout fund enacted under PresidentGeorge W. Bush.
More On How the Safety of Oil & Gas Jobs Compare to Other Industries Comparing the 4.6 injuries / illnesses per 100 full time workers in the oil and gas drilling industry in 2007 - this was lower than the following high-risk industries:
Industry Injuries / illnesses per 100 full time workers (2007) Greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture production 5.9 Fruit and vegetable markets 5.0 Beef cattle ranching and farming 9.0 Construction 5.4 Highway, street, and bridge construction 5.9 Glass and glazing contractors 9.8 Breakfast cereal manufacturing 6.9 Cheese manufacturing 7.9 Bottled water manufacturing 7.9 Motor vehicle manufacturing 9.3 Recreational vehicle dealers 7.6 Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers 6.6 Department stores 5.7
Fox News' Farrell says this means it is more dangerous to: