How can we get more basic clarity on the epistemological status of claims we read in scholarly journals? On what basis and how securely to do we know something we assert in a publication? Is it received wisdom, vague suspicion, well-documented pattern that fits a broad set of facts, etc.? Much of the peer-review process seems aimed to ferreting out fudging on this front, but I see constantly when and where it hasn't worked, especially in theoretical linguistics.
This was brought to the fore by a TPM post by Josh Marshall this morning, with this passage (the quote at the beginning is from an NYT editorial):
"Unwilling to accept [DOJ's refusal to reauthorize the program], Vice President Dick Cheney sent Mr. Gonzales and another official to Mr. Ashcroft’s hospital room to get him to approve the wiretapping."Good questions, right?
The folks at TPMmuckraker are the ones really following this story closely. So perhaps this is a detail that has eluded me. But I was not aware that it had ever been established that Vice President Cheney ordered the visit. Speculated, rumored, sure. But I wasn't aware this had been established at all.
And yet the Times states it rather offhandedly as a fact. So what do they know?
Editorials like these are sometimes a venue where facts are stuck in which are 'known' to be true but which cannot be sourced cleanly or clearly enough to make it onto the news pages. Is that what's up here?