ABOUT THIS BLOG

I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:

· To post questions or comments;

· To follow up on class discussions;

· To post relevant news items or videos.

There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges.

The syllabus is at http://www1.cmc.edu/pages/faculty/JPitney/gov106-fall15.html

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Monday, March 10, 2008

The NYT's Character Assassination of John McCain Continues Unabated

Well, that title might be a touch sensationalist, but you get the idea. I admit that the article is more relevant to last week's material, but it's too much fun not to post. Although John McCain said yesterday on 60 Minutes that he'd be releasing his medical records "in the next month or so," Lawrence K. Altman at the New York Times felt it was necessary to write a story pointing out that while the data we have supports that McCain is healthy and at low risk of a recurrence of melanoma, it's still more fun to speculate:
Along with his signature bright white hair, the most striking aspects of Senator John McCain’s physical appearance are his puffy left cheek and the scar that runs down the back of his neck. The marks are cosmetic reminders of the melanoma surgery he underwent in August 2000 [...]

In 1999, during Mr. McCain’s first race for president, he gave the public an extraordinary look at his medical history — 1,500 pages of medical and psychiatric records that were amassed as part of a United States Navy project to gauge the health of former prisoners of war. This reporter, who is a physician, interviewed the senator’s doctors in 1999 with his permission.

But this time around, Mr. McCain has yet to make his full medical records or his physicians available to reporters. At least three times since March 2007, campaign officials have told The New York Times that they would provide the detailed information about his current state of health, but they have not done so. The campaign now says it expects to release the information in April. [bold and italics mine]

And now some data from the article:

The melanoma removed in 2000 was Stage IIa on a standard classification that makes Stage IV the most serious. For Stage IIa melanoma, the survival rate 10 years after diagnosis is about 65 percent. But the outlook is much better for patients like Mr. McCain, who have already survived more than seven years.

For patients with a melanoma like Mr. McCain’s who remained free of the disease for the first five years after diagnosis, the probability of recurrence during the next five years was 14 percent and death 9 percent, a study published in 1992 found.

A 14% chance of recurrence and a 9% chance of death? Not bad. But why stop there?

Since the 2008 campaign began, doctors not connected with Mr. McCain’s case have expressed intense interest in the extent of the face and neck surgery that he underwent on Aug. 19, 2000, at the Mayo Clinic Scottsdale in Arizona.

Some of these doctors have noted in e-mail messages and in comments to reporters that the surgery appeared to be so extensive that they were surprised his melanoma was not more serious — perhaps Stage III, which would give him a bleaker prognosis. These doctors said they would be surprised to learn that such an operation would be performed without evidence that the melanoma had spread. [bold and italics mine]

Stage III!? Oh no! Wait--how much bleaker is that? Can we have some sort of number? While the article backs away from this implication, stating that such procedures were the industry standard 8 years ago, page 2 is worse:

Doctors advise melanoma patients to have regular checkups to detect new skin cancers and the spread of old ones because melanomas can be quirky. Mr. McCain’s staff has not said what tests his doctors have used to monitor his case.

Most recurrences of melanoma occur in the first few years after detection. Survival figures for melanomas are often measured in 10-year periods rather than the 5-year periods for many other cancers.

“With melanoma, a patient is never completely clear,” said Dr. Shapiro, the N.Y.U. expert.

If melanomas do recur, standard treatment options are limited for many to surgery and a difficult form of chemotherapy. The chances of long-term survival diminish.

Now, on the campaign trail, Mr. McCain appears to take care to shield himself from the sun, slathering on powerful sunscreen before outdoor events, finding spots of shade from which to speak and sometimes wearing baseball caps while outside. [bold and italics mine]

The staff hasn't said what tests McCain has used? The patient is "never completely clear"!? He's "slathering on powerful sunscreen"??!! I suppose it's not what Mr. Altman is saying, but rather what he is not saying that is important. One interpretation could read: "Senator McCain hasn't released his medical records, his staff isn't talking, and he's using gobs of super sunscreen. I sure hope he doesn't drop dead the next time the U.S. has an existential crisis."

And for more of what's quite literally left unsaid, here's the article's big finish:
Mr. McCain is occasionally asked on the campaign trail about his age. But he is almost never asked about his health.
Hat Tip: Snarky Bastards

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