Admittedly, Media Matters doesn't have a deep well of credibility, but even I was shocked by the sloppiness of this hack-attack
yesterday. Their headline:
Nate Silver takes the Hot Air out of Cato's stimulus attack
And opening line:
Right-wing blogger Allahpundit put some Hot Air behind a piece of Cato Institute research that sought to attack stimulus spending as unfairly tilted in favor of Democratic congressional districts.
Except, you know, it wasn't a Cato study. It was a Mercatus Center study. If Media Matters had even bothered to look at the actual study, pausing just a few moments from launching their attack, they would have seen that. Here is the study
, technically a 'working paper,' but the title page is very clear, Mercatus Center: George Mason University.
Media Matters also identifies the study's author, Big Government Contributor Veronique de Rugy, as a "Cato Scholar." But, their own link for de Rugy makes it clear that she is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center and used to work at Cato. AKA, in the past. Does Media Matters even follow their own links?
Sure, these may seem like minor points, but getting obvious facts so completely wrong is indicative of the drive-by, hit-and-run style of analysis employed by Media Matters.
There is, actually, a much more substantial error on their part.
They close their political hit on de Rugy with this jewel:
Occam's Razor says that given two competing theories, the simpler explanation is better. But Occam didn't account for the fact that the simplest explanation often gets in the way of a good old right-wing conspiracy theory.
To Media Matters, anyone who disagrees with them is "right-wing" and obviously peddling a "conspiracy theory." Really, Media Matters? There isn't room for an honest intellectual disagreement? In your worldview, de Rugy, who received a PhD in Economics from the Sorbonne, is just some right-wing partisan hack simply because you disagree with her conclusion? Nate Silver, on whose critique of de Rugy's study you hang your entire study, certainly doesn't agree with you.
Media Matters must have missed the very civil debate between de Rugy and Silver. (They responded to each other throughout the day.) From Silver's second response:
Veronique de Rugy has issued a fairly gracious response to my critique of her study on the disbursement of stimulus funds, the crux of which was that she had failed to account for a variable (the presence of a state capital) that was extremely important in predicting the allocation of stimulus funds (because much of the money is intermediated by state governments).
Most importantly, she has promised to evaluate some of my concerns and to re-run her analysis. This is terrific -- and she is to be commended for her responsiveness. de Rugy is also to be commended for having released portions of her dataset** on the Mercauts Center website (something which she had done originally).
She says it wasn't and I take her at her word, particularly given her fairness and transparency in responding to me. But I don't really see raising the possibility that the bias was deliberate as being particularly "inflammatory" -- it was manifestly a *possibility*, given how obvious the design flaw was relative to how smart and capable de Rugy obviously is.
The respected IBM Center for the Business of Government noted the back-and-forth in a post titled
, "A Civilized Debate":
The exchange is worthy of attention because it highlights two great points:
1) We really like seeing smart people getting past their initial suspicions of each other in order to begin hammering out some fundamental questions about the quality of Recovery.gov data and potential issues in the stimulus package itself.
We’ll never get very far in understanding what works and how well it works if we can’t get to points of basic agreement across partisan or ideological aisles about the ground rules of analysis. This civilized debate underscores how partisan and toxic much of the discussion over the stimulus (and other recent government plans) has become.
"...how partisan and toxic much of the discussion...has become"? Sounds like they're very familiar with Media Matters.