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> More on reliable sources
It's the blimp, Frank
post Mon 27th July 2009, 4:40pm
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.http://www.truthout.org/072509Z?n
QUOTE
As my friend and colleague Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks pointed out in a Daily Kos blog recently, billionaire Rupert Murdoch loses $50 million a year on the NY Post, billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife loses $2 to $3 million a year on the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, billionaire Philip Anschutz loses around $5 million a year on The Weekly Standard, and billionaire Sun Myung Moon has lost $2 to $3 billion on The Washington Times.

Why are these guys willing to lose so much money funding "conservative" media? Why do they bulk-buy every right-wing book that comes out to throw it to the top of the NY Times Bestseller list and then give away the copies to "subscribers" to their websites and publications? Why do they fund to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year money-hole "think tanks" like Heritage and Cato?

The answer is pretty straightforward. They do it because it buys them respectability, and gets their con job out there.
It certainly gets their con job on Wikipedia
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Grep
post Mon 27th July 2009, 5:19pm
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Good marks for hilarity to the discussion at the Sam Blacketer RFD. Policy states that the most reliable sources are [...] mainstream newspapers, amplified to Material from mainstream news organizations is welcomed, particularly the high-quality end of the market, for example the Washington Post in the United States and the Times in Britain, as well as widely used conglomerates such as the Associated Press but when it happens not to suit the cabal suddenly it's
  • because the reporting is so erroneous and biased
  • The great danger with this article is that while it simply parrots what the press says
  • we know that the current sources are deeply flawed
  • the "reliable sources" get many of the fundamental facts wrong
  • "Reliable" sources whose accounts are wrong on almost every point. I know ... verifiability, not truth ... That is all very well as long as the article is about someone else

An amazing demonstration of doublethink: the last sums it all up really.
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Milton Roe
post Mon 27th July 2009, 6:26pm
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QUOTE(Grep @ Mon 27th July 2009, 10:19am) *

Good marks for hilarity to the discussion at the Sam Blacketer RFD. Policy states that the most reliable sources are [...] mainstream newspapers, amplified to Material from mainstream news organizations is welcomed, particularly the high-quality end of the market, for example the Washington Post in the United States and the Times in Britain, as well as widely used conglomerates such as the Associated Press but when it happens not to suit the cabal suddenly it's
  • because the reporting is so erroneous and biased
  • The great danger with this article is that while it simply parrots what the press says
  • we know that the current sources are deeply flawed
  • the "reliable sources" get many of the fundamental facts wrong
  • "Reliable" sources whose accounts are wrong on almost every point. I know ... verifiability, not truth ... That is all very well as long as the article is about someone else
An amazing demonstration of doublethink: the last sums it all up really.


Blame SlimVirgin. That's what I always do. She WROTE that part of WP:RS: it has the effect of elevating as "reliable" stuff that (whether in the Washington Post or not) may well have been written overnight by one "investigative journalist" and blue-penciled by one managing editor (who has to take the journalist's word that they've gotten ONE independent hearsay source check for each statement). Now this can be cited in equivalence with articles in peer-reviewed science journals which publish only content which survives months of rather brutal scrutiny form half a dozen subject matter experts. Or (for that matter) with historical journal reviews and books which have had time to do the same with history.

And (surprise) overnight reporting of news gets a lot of stuff wrong. In their heart-of-hearts, Wikipedians know this (even SlimVirgin knows it), but how else are you going to write that Wiki-article on the death of Michael Jackson, as the reports come in? blink.gif ermm.gif I mean, you really wouldn't want to deny yourself THAT, would you? It's too much to ask. Who the hell wants to work with stale history that happened 50 years ago?
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Herschelkrustofsky
post Tue 28th July 2009, 2:38pm
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QUOTE(It's the blimp, Frank @ Mon 27th July 2009, 9:40am) *
While this is fine as far as it goes, it is also somewhat misleading by implying that quote-unquote conservative media are somehow different than quote-unquote liberal media. For example, the Washington Post, enshrined in WP:RS as the very model of a reliable source, is the political blunt instrument of the nasty family dynasty of Kate Graham.
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Kelly Martin
post Tue 28th July 2009, 6:56pm
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The "reliable source" policy has been gamed so many times that it has to roll a 19 or higher on a d20 in order to go to the bathroom. No, seriously. "Reliable Source" is one of the key policies used in wikigaming whenever an ideological editor is trying to include or exclude some particular talking point from an article.

It's long been said that bad cases make bad law, and the reliable sources policy on Wikipedia is the crystallization of an endless stream of bad cases. It should be dumped entirely and started anew, but that would be pointless without also dumping the people responsible for turning it into such a bloody mess.
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Angela Kennedy
post Tue 28th July 2009, 9:54pm
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QUOTE(Kelly Martin @ Tue 28th July 2009, 7:56pm) *

The "reliable source" policy has been gamed so many times that it has to roll a 19 or higher on a d20 in order to go to the bathroom. No, seriously. "Reliable Source" is one of the key policies used in wikigaming whenever an ideological editor is trying to include or exclude some particular talking point from an article.

It's long been said that bad cases make bad law, and the reliable sources policy on Wikipedia is the crystallization of an endless stream of bad cases. It should be dumped entirely and started anew, but that would be pointless without also dumping the people responsible for turning it into such a bloody mess.



I agree entirely. One of my concerns is the way WP editors believe they should be the arbiters of 'weight' given to claims made in the outside world, based on how 'respectable' or 'reputable' a 'scientific' journal is, or whether they judge something to be 'mainstream'. This they believe is scientific! NPOV goes out the window while POV editors slag off certain publications, laud others. But this behaviour also presumes WP editors are the rightful arbiters of what 'weight' is to be applied to the claims of others in the outside world.

So, instead of just producing text along the lines of "someone claims this. Others claim that..." give the sources etc. various POV editors want to write 'what we say is the TRUTH you know! 'Mainstream' science says so. 'Mainstream' being basically whatever our POV is...' It's a constant stream of the appeal to authority fallacy over there.

Only what actually is 'mainstream' is often not subject to scientific testing, and is a matter of opinion, conflict etc. in the outside world.

This is exemplary of much of the medical articles on WP. It's such a mess.

The other problem is how groups of people are demonized on the claims of single persons, reported in newspapers, about being 'harassed', 'death threats' etc. when those claims are not substantiated. WP reports them as actually having happened, just because some newspaper repeats it. No careful use of language such as 'Claims that this happened' etc.

(If asked I'll provide examples.)
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Cla68
post Wed 29th July 2009, 12:33am
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QUOTE(Milton Roe @ Mon 27th July 2009, 6:26pm) *


Blame SlimVirgin. That's what I always do. She WROTE that part of WP:RS


Actually, I think SV has addressed the issues with this, stating that Verifiability trumps Reliable Sources. Unless I misunderstand her, what she's trying to say is that, of course sources have issues, some are more reliable than others, some are more reliable at varying times, and it's difficult and a matter of perspective to prove how reliable everything is.

In that case, it's more important that the source is verifiable, i.e. that anyone can look it up to ensure that the source is actually saying what it is reported in Wikipedia that it is saying. If sources are verifiable, then readers can decide for themselves how truthful the information is by judging the source for themselves. Wikipedia sets a basic, reasonable standard for reliable sources- newspapers, newsmagazines, published (not self-published) books, no blogs or personal webpages, etc., but after that it's up to the reader to decide the credibility of the information.

So, if someone doesn't want to believe a story because it was in the NYPost or Washington Times (both conservative newspapers) and not in the NYTimes or Washington Post, then they're free to do so. The sources used for Wikipedia are right there in the footnotes, at least they're supposed to be.

This post has been edited by Cla68: Wed 29th July 2009, 12:36am
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Herschelkrustofsky
post Wed 29th July 2009, 6:21am
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QUOTE(Cla68 @ Tue 28th July 2009, 5:33pm) *

So, if someone doesn't want to believe a story because it was in the NYPost or Washington Times (both conservative newspapers) and not in the NYTimes or Washington Post, then they're free to do so. The sources used for Wikipedia are right there in the footnotes, at least they're supposed to be.
Alas, I fear that the credulous don't get quite as far as examining the footnotes. The fact that there are footnotes may seem impressive enough.

QUOTE(Angela Kennedy @ Tue 28th July 2009, 2:54pm) *

The other problem is how groups of people are demonized on the claims of single persons, reported in newspapers, about being 'harassed', 'death threats' etc. when those claims are not substantiated. WP reports them as actually having happened, just because some newspaper repeats it. No careful use of language such as 'Claims that this happened' etc.
That's a good point. Of course, the more skilled POV-pushers, typically the ones who have made it to Admin, know when make such attributions, and when to tactfully omit them. The importance of mastering WP policy is to be sure it is always being applied to one's advantage.
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Moulton
post Wed 29th July 2009, 11:22am
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It all comes down to editorial judgment.

Compared to other reputable sources of encyclopedic information, WP has abysmal editorial judgment.
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Grep
post Wed 29th July 2009, 11:31am
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QUOTE(Moulton @ Wed 29th July 2009, 12:22pm) *

It all comes down to editorial judgment.

Compared to other reputable sources of encyclopedic information, WP has abysmal editorial judgment.


I tend to agree with the point that there's no editorial judgement, because there are no editors -- just a mass of contributors and some rather incoherent guidelines.
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Cla68
post Thu 30th July 2009, 12:17am
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One more thing I wanted to say in response to this thread's original post...I believe you do yourself a disservice if you completely shun a newspaper because it is "conservative" or "liberal." I lived in the Washington DC area for five years. I had the Washington Post, supposedly a liberal newspaper, delivered to my residence, but I also read the Washington Times whenever a copy happened to fall into my hands. I thought both newspapers were excellent. The only part of either newspaper which appeared to push a political agenda was on the editorial page, in other words, about two pages out of 20-30 each day.

Having more sources of information, such as these two newspapers, is helpful. For example, see this article on the Pentagon military analyst program. I did a lot of work on this article, and you can see by looking at the footnotes that the Washington Times was an important source for information. The Post does not appear to have chosen to cover the story in any great detail. If you want to get the story out, you need to use whatever reasonably reliable source of information is available. Cite your sources, and the reader can decide on how much credibility to give the story.

It is true that Wikipedians argue over sources, and sometimes this is a sign of POV-pushing. I think there was one case of some POV-pushing going on in an animal right's article, and an editor, who also happened to be one of those who had done a lot of work on the reliable sources policy, stated that the journalists for some reliable source "have almost certainly just made a mistake". Clear sign of POV-pushing. Wikipedia should just stick with a reasonable definition of what a reliable source is, which it seems to have now, and let verifiability be the overriding principle. I guess that would be "verifiability, not truth." I think SV might be the one who first said this.

This post has been edited by Cla68: Thu 30th July 2009, 12:29am
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Milton Roe
post Thu 30th July 2009, 12:51am
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QUOTE(Cla68 @ Wed 29th July 2009, 5:17pm) *

It is true that Wikipedians argue over sources, and sometimes this is a sign of POV-pushing. I think there was one case of some POV-pushing going on in an animal right's article, and an editor, who also happened to be one of those who had done a lot of work on the reliable sources policy, stated that the journalists for some reliable source "obviously don't know what they're talking about" or something like that. Clear sign of POV-pushing.


But unfortunately often also a clear sign of personal expertise, since it is usually the business of journalism to explain that which it personally does not understand. Again (to repeat again) you will get that if you ever read a newspaper article connected with an event or field which you personally know well.

QUOTE
Wikipedia should just stick with a reasonable definition of what a reliable source is, which it seems to have now, and let verifiability be the overriding principle. I guess that would be "verifiability, not truth."


No, wikipedia should let truth be the overriding principle and goal, despite the unfortunate fact that there is no gold standard for it. Well-sourced nonsense is still well-sourced nonsense.

You like military history. Compare Johnson's airstrikes on Vietnam the same night as the supposed second attack on the Maddox, and the Tonkin Gulf resolution 3 days later, with the intelligence from Curveball, the US congress' "Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq", Collin Powell's testimony before the UN General Assembly, etc. All well-sourced at the time, but the newspapers were only reporting what they'd been fed. Repeating a rumor or mistake or outright lie in print, does not convert into anything more than a rumor/mistake or lie. Now it's just a rumor, mistake or lie, with a footnote.

So how do you fix this? You leave room for skepticism. The Washington Post reports that the government's spokesman says that X is a fact. But the government has so far refused to answer all questions about how it, itself, knows X is a fact. Thus the factuality of X stands as a naked assertion without any evidence, other than being the official government position.

Now, the Post itself many not say this at the time, especially knowing that overly critical reportage can get you tossed out of the press corps. So somebody has to say it. Who is that going to be? Well, likely some newspaper with less standing and no press corps. So you see the problem.
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Cla68
post Thu 30th July 2009, 1:21am
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QUOTE(Milton Roe @ Thu 30th July 2009, 12:51am) *

QUOTE(Cla68 @ Wed 29th July 2009, 5:17pm) *

It is true that Wikipedians argue over sources, and sometimes this is a sign of POV-pushing. I think there was one case of some POV-pushing going on in an animal right's article, and an editor, who also happened to be one of those who had done a lot of work on the reliable sources policy, stated that the journalists for some reliable source "obviously don't know what they're talking about" or something like that. Clear sign of POV-pushing.


But unfortunately often also a clear sign of personal expertise, since it is usually the business of journalism to explain that which it personally does not understand. Again (to repeat again) you will get that if you ever read a newspaper article connected with an event or field which you personally know well.

QUOTE
Wikipedia should just stick with a reasonable definition of what a reliable source is, which it seems to have now, and let verifiability be the overriding principle. I guess that would be "verifiability, not truth."


No, wikipedia should let truth be the overriding principle and goal, despite the unfortunate fact that there is no gold standard for it. Well-sourced nonsense is still well-sourced nonsense.

You like military history. Compare Johnson's airstrikes on Vietnam the same night as the supposed second attack on the Maddox, and the Tonkin Gulf resolution 3 days later, with the intelligence from Curveball, the US congress' "Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq", Collin Powell's testimony before the UN General Assembly, etc. All well-sourced at the time, but the newspapers were only reporting what they'd been fed. Repeating a rumor or mistake or outright lie in print, does not convert into anything more than a rumor/mistake or lie. Now it's just a rumor, mistake or lie, with a footnote.

So how do you fix this? You leave room for skepticism. The Washington Post reports that the government's spokesman says that X is a fact. But the government has so far refused to answer all questions about how it, itself, knows X is a fact. Thus the factuality of X stands as a naked assertion without any evidence, other than being the official government position.

Now, the Post itself many not say this at the time, especially knowing that overly critical reportage can get you tossed out of the press corps. So somebody has to say it. Who is that going to be? Well, likely some newspaper with less standing and no press corps. So you see the problem.


Finding and printing "the truth" is probably too ambitious for Wikipedia. Treat Wikipedia as entertainment, both as an editor and as a reader, and you're fine. As in the example you mention above, finding and explaining the truth of an historical event is fraught with difficulty. The film everyone uses as an example of this is Rashomon, in which the story of a violent event is given four different ways by four different people. If Wikipedia was involved in reporting this fictional story as if it were true, it would report each version as it was published in a reliable source. That's all it can do.

This post has been edited by Cla68: Thu 30th July 2009, 1:24am
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Herschelkrustofsky
post Thu 30th July 2009, 6:32am
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QUOTE(Cla68 @ Wed 29th July 2009, 6:21pm) *

The film everyone uses as an example of this is Rashomon, in which the story of a violent event is given four different ways by four different people. If Wikipedia was involved in reporting this fictional story as if it were true, it would report each version as it was published in a reliable source. That's all it can do.
I think it would be more interesting than that. I can imagine factions forming to support the various versions of the story, each challenging the reliability of the sources used to support other versions. Then would come the allegations of sockpuppetry, incivility, and so on. You could write a very entertaining parody of Rashomon as re-told on Wikipedia. It might be entitled "Allegations of Rashomon."
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Cock-up-over-conspiracy
post Thu 30th July 2009, 10:06am
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Its a funny old world but I write as an individual who has actually contributed to one of the "Newspapers of Record" listed above and so am therefore in the position to quote myself "reliably" on the Pee-dia.

The funnier thing is that;

a) not only did the editorial team not question my sources (they don't unless it looks obviously actionable),
b) they made what I know to be an absolute error of facts which I was unable to correct in the printed edition ... because it had already gone out before I read it online.

But it is verifiable to use now!

If you think that no government uses such newspapers to deliver deliberate messages, you are being naive. Mostly they don't but when they want to, or need to, they do.

But it is verifiable to use too!

Any honest, competent and mature editor would be able to filter that sort of stuff out mostly on the basis of experience, and a little bit of time to see how things wash out. Sadly, most vocal Pee-dians don't have any experience (they are too busy defending their edits on the internet to go and get any), just a POV axe to grind.

This post has been edited by Cock-up-over-conspiracy: Thu 30th July 2009, 2:32pm
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Cla68
post Thu 30th July 2009, 12:18pm
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QUOTE(Herschelkrustofsky @ Thu 30th July 2009, 6:32am) *
I think it would be more interesting than that. I can imagine factions forming to support the various versions of the story, each challenging the reliability of the sources used to support other versions. Then would come the allegations of sockpuppetry, incivility, and so on. You could write a very entertaining parody of Rashomon as re-told on Wikipedia. It might be entitled "Allegations of Rashomon."


That could very well happen, especially if the four witnesses or the parties to the event came from different countries or political parties. I have another example, this one from a famous battle from World War II. Please excuse the verbosity, but I want to make sure I don't leave out any important details:

One generally accepted fact of the Battle of Midway is that the air groups from the US carrier Hornet performed abysmally. On the crucial day of battle, three out of the four carrier's squadrons failed to locate the Japanese fleet. The squadron that did locate the Japanese ships, Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8), was completely wiped-out during their attack without scoring a single hit (before anyone mentions it, their sacrifice did help enable the subsequently successful dive bomber attacks from the other two US carriers). Many of the Hornet's aircraft, including 10 of its fighters, were unable to locate Hornet after that failed mission and ditched in the ocean.

Most of the major western historians of the battle, such as Morison, Lord, Cressman, and Prange, apparently accepted the story from Hornet's command staff, led by Marc Mitscher that the squadrons' poor performance was due to bad luck and inexperience. It's only just recently that a different, and perhaps true, account of what really happened has come out, and it has yet to be reported on in Wikipedia.

The truth appears to be that Mitscher incorrectly decided that two of the Japanese carriers were in a different place from the reported position and ordered his squadrons to fly a heading towards that location. The only reason that VT-8 found the Japanese fleet is because its squadron commander deliberately disobeyed orders and turned his squadron to the correct heading. If the ship's two dive bomber squadrons had flown the correct heading and attacked the Japanese fleet with VT-8, all four of the Japanese carriers might have been sunk in the initial strike, which means that the Yorktown would have survived the battle. Mistakes happen in war, but in this case Mitscher and his staff elected not to own up to it and deliberately covered it up. In their after-action report, they lied about the initial heading given to their squadrons.

Because the Hornet's after-action report misrepresented the courses flown by its aircraft, the search for the 10 ditched fighter aircraft was sent to the wrong location. Several days later, by chance, 8 of the 10 fighter pilots were found by patrol aircraft and rescued. Another two pilots who had survived their crash landings were not found and disappeared. Thus, Mitscher's cover-up may well have sent two of his own men to early graves. Mitscher went on to become one of the top commanders in the US Pacific Fleet and is largely credited with the successful carrier-naval campaign which helped force Japan's surrender. Mitscher died in 1947.

The first reporting on this debacle and Mitscher's cover-up was by Bowen Weisheit, a fraternity brother of one of the two killed Hornet fighter pilots. By careful research he discovered the truth of what happened and wrote it up in a self-published book called, The Last Flight of Ensign C. markland Kelly, Junior, USNR, published in 1993. Because it was a self-published book, it was ignored by most interested historians and observers. (Actually, it appears that Lord knew something about this in 1967 but chose not to mention it in his book).

It wasn't until 10 years later that several other historians picked-up on the story, verified it with their own research, and gave it more publicity in non-self-published books. Alvin Kernan wrote about it in 2005's The Unknown Battle of Midway: The Destruction of the American Torpedo Squadrons and recently ex-congressman Robert Mrazek covered it in detail in A Dawn Like Thunder: The True Story of Torpedo Squadron Eight.

How does this apply to Wikipedia? Well, it goes into the realm of reliable sources. Let's say that Wikipedia existed since 1942. The first accounts of the battle would have been from propagandic press releases from US and Japanese governments and media. In the 50s, 60s, and 70, we would have had more complete accounts from the authors mentioned several paragraphs above. Now, if someone, in 1993 had tried to introduce this story from Weisheit's book, I think interested Wikipedians would have not allowed it in, saying things like, "Exceptional claims require exceptional sources" and "self-published books are not RS" and things like that. It's only now, since 2005, 63 years after the battle that this important story can be told in Wikipedia in a way that complies with Wikipedia's RS policy. Actually, based on my experience, a note on Weisheit's book might could have been mentioned in a footnote, but that's about the top exposure that would have been allowed for it.

The truth has been out there since 1993 (and perhaps 1967), but it wasn't reasonably verifiable until four years ago.

This post has been edited by Cla68: Thu 30th July 2009, 1:19pm
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Herschelkrustofsky
post Thu 30th July 2009, 9:49pm
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In the latest episode of what is emerging as a marathon duel between Will Beback and Leatherstocking, there is a battle at the RS noticeboard over China Youth Online. Will says they are unreliable, mainly because they said nice things about LaRouche, but also because they are Commies. Leatherstocking responds to the "Commie press can't be trusted" argument by offering evidence that the US government tampers with journalism, too. However, the item that caught my eye was this link to "Counterpunch," mainly because of a masterful piece of doggerel which I reproduce below. Disclaimer: I am not picking on the Brits here, I'm sure the Yankees are just as bad, but the poem says what it says:
QUOTE
You cannot hope
to bribe or twist,
thank God!
the British journalist.

But, seeing what
the man will do
unbribed, there's
no occasion to.

'The Uncelestial City', Humbert Wolfe, 1930
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EricBarbour
post Thu 30th July 2009, 10:10pm
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Then are we agreed, that WP:RS desperately need to be rewritten?
And who's going to do it? And incur the wrath of the Crazy Woman?

Can you picture the current Arbcom fighting with her to make a major
revision of RS? Me neither. And yet, they SHOULD do it.

Their lack of initiative/cowardice speaks volumes about WP's mess.
"Reform" would, by necessity, require the removal of longtime admins
like SV, who are major roadblocks to change.


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sbrown
post Thu 30th July 2009, 11:04pm
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QUOTE(EricBarbour @ Thu 30th July 2009, 11:10pm) *

Then are we agreed, that WP:RS desperately need to be rewritten?

No. Junked and replaced by something sensible.
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