Saturday, October 15, 2011

Is "Ruffles" really just Trig before getting his ears fixed?

Welcome to Brad Scharlott's Beacon
Hi all. I am starting this blog so that I have a place to post my own thoughts without imposing on my friends who have blogs. This blog might look pretty plain for a while as I figure out how to use the tools.

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Is "Ruffles" just Trig before he got his ears fixed?
I recently became fascinated with Trig's ears. And after looking at lots of photos, I came to wonder if the baby many of us have called "Ruffles" is really just Trig before his ears were fixed.

Let me note that I am not the first to raise this question. I missed it at the time, but Palingates had an excellent post on the subject in April:

Many people, including experts, have looked at a baby pictured at Kistan Cole's party in May 2008 and concluded that the "ruffled" ear of that baby, shown below, could not belong to Trig.

I think people have been fooled by a what might be called a trompe-l'œil: a trick of the eye. What we see above is a very tiny ear with a strange hole just to the right of it ... or is it? Take a look at the following, which shows the above photo cropped and rotated, and placed next to a picture of Trig's ear from when he was about 1 year old:

Suddenly it seems possible that the hole next to the ear on the left is not really a hole at all, but rather a batwing shape in the lower ear – one which corresponds to a similar batwing shape in the ear to the right. Plus there is a Y-shape near the top of both ears, and in the middle of each ear is a trapezoidal shape. Note the circled areas below, red for batwings and green for Y-shape:

The Y-shapes in the green circles do not correspond very well; the one to the left looks as if it has been rotated clockwise and down relative to the one on right; plus the ear to the left obviously has other anomolies. But I have a hypothesis as to what may have caused those anomolies: a condition known as cryptotia, which is shown in the left-side panel below.

With cryptotia, the top of the ear gets folded under the scalp. I think that is what may have happened with Trig. As I look at the middle picture just above, I kinda, sorta think I see the top of the ear being folded under the scalp, as happened to the ear to the left. And if so, and if the folded part were unfolded, I kinda, sorta could imagine that the middle ear would look more like the ear to the right, especially if the Y-shape were rotated counter-clockwise 25 degrees, which I suppose might happen if the possibly buried part of the ear were released.

If Trig did have cryptotia, then during his infancy would be the best time to take care of it. Here's a product, EarBuddies, that the makers claim can correct cryptotia in newborns in about two weeks.

How confident am I that I got this right. Maybe 50 percent – which is a flip of the coin. I'm not a medical doctor (although some students call me Dr. Scharlott, especially if I bribe them). I'd love to have some medical people look at what I have posted here and tell me if this line of thinking seems right.

Holy moly! I think I just spotted something else. Looked at what I have circled below:

It looks to me as if that little bit of skin could be the lower ear lobe – doesn't it look like the skin goes over the white material? Cool. I guess I'm up to 60 percent confidence now. (In the social sciences, you generally don't try to publish results until you are 95 percent confident – but since this is a blog and not a peer-reviewed academic journal, we can go to press with less than 95 percent.)

Be sure to see follow-up illustration:


  1. Congratulations, Dr S. A toast to your inaugural post.

    I don't totally see what you see, but I trust your perception of what you see. I also just read Allison's theory on Ruffles' ears being fixed by a plastic surgeon, since, after all, the Palins are so keen on them. (@ Palin Place)

    While the Palins may not of opted for surgery, I do think they are hypersensitive to FIXING and CHANGING their appearance. Ear forms would make sense.

    And then there is Sarah's famous slip of the tongue, "ear forms," which Allison also documents.

    Love your graphics. You're a great teacher.


  2. I have always thought the ears belong to the same baby because there is a distinctive negative space rectangle in all Trig ear photos I have seen. I can't explain the ruffle...but I would bet my house that we are looking at the same ears attached to the same baby.

  3. Congrats on the blog, Dr. Brad! I agree with you about the "hole" being a "trick" of the photograph--it only LOOKS like a hole because of the shadowing and the angle of the picture. But, aside from that, have you seen this very good post about the ears?
    While I disagree about the "hold repair" (since I don't think there ever was a hole), the rest makes PERFECT sense. Additionally, there is the issue, at the bottom of the page, of the two completely DIFFERENT ears on babies both presented as "Trig" during the 2008 campaign. To my eye, those are 2 different ears, no trick of light/shadowing/photograph angle could change the shape and structure of the ear. So, there were 2 different babies during the 2008 campaign.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Wonderful post and strong area of inquiry.
    I cant wait to see what your blog brings, moving forward.

    Thanks, Dr. S !!

  6. malformations of the outer ear..

  7. Ginny: Right, that's a wonderful post. I don't think surgery was needed, or if so, just a nip to get to the part of the ear covered by the scalp (if there was cryptotia). Yeah, those look like different ears at RNC. She of course meant for people to assume each baby was Trig, but probably had a fallback response if challenged. Remember how an author for Atlantic, I think, said Trig was at a talk with her, and she tried to make him look foolish by pointing out it was a different baby.

  8. Yes, I've seen a few pictures of Palin holding babies/toddlers with DS that were most definitely NOT Trig, yet every single time the pictures are captioned to say that it is Sarah holding Trig. I can't help but wonder if the confusion was propagated purposefully, as you suspect.

  9. Brad, thanks for your hard work. There are so many who worked to dispel $Palin's lies. Nice to see you start your own blog and join the ranks of people who believe, that the truth should prevail.

  10. Brad, as you know, I am less interested in photo analysis than most of my fellow Babygators. My positions stem from the motivational, political, and psychological aspects of Babygate. As Ginny11 said, if you accept that Ruffles is A TRIG, this theory makes sense, but this clearly means there are still two babies who have played the part of Trig. Since I am a big Batman fan, I like the nickname Batwing, but since some people seem to be bothered by that appellation, I call him Elfie in PARADIGM SHIFT. It has always been my opinion that there is a baby hoax, however you explain it, either with Ruffles and Trig or with Elfie and Round Ear.

    I want to mention the recent blog issue that has been discussed at length, the photo known as Airplane Baby. Some think he is the same as a Trig, specifically the younger-looking Trig in the blue outfit at the RNC. Some think he is the familiar blond, blue-eyed Tripp. I lean a little more toward the latter theory, but as you mention, this is one of those 50/50 issues. The point I want to make is that I do not think that Airplane Baby can be both of these described babies. In other words, Airplane Baby might be either one, but the other two are not each other. Blue RNC Trig is definitely NOT blond Tripp. In essence, this means that everyone outside the Babygate realm has tried to convince us that there are only two babies when there must be at least three, hence the hoax.

    Welcome to the blogosphere and keep up the good work!

  11. Congrats on starting your own blog, Brad. Interesting inaugural post!

    (BTW, for folks who may not know this yet, Regina has announced that she will no longer update Palingates, which will remain an invaluable archival resource for the anti-Palin community.)

    @Floyd: For quite a while, I was convinced that the blue-sweater-airplane baby was NEITHER Trig nor Tripp. Then I decided he had to be Trig.

    Recently, with the discussion about Levi's photo of Tripp shown on ET in 2009, I concluded that blue-sweater-airplane baby could very well have been Tripp. Big round eyes, button nose, plump cheeks, droopy lower-right lip.

    But then I realized...well, if Tripp and Trig have the same bio-parents (or at least the same mother), then OF COURSE they might look somewhat alike in baby photos: They're brothers.

  12. Hi Brad! Congratulations on your new blog, welcome to the blogging world!
    I thought I read on IM that a baby so young as TriG would not have Surgery until at least 2 yrs old? Yet at the RNC we see perfect little ears :)
    I think Sarah uses Rent-a-babies! As you said above when she hold a baby we all or she wants us all to think its TriG.

  13. Can't tell you how glad I am that you are going to blog about this!

    I've pondered and researched Palins for three years and finally opened my first blog, too. We are launching within 2 weeks of each other and it looks like we see eye to eye on Ruffles. Have you reviewed the interview where Sarah slips and says "earform" instead of "earmark" ? Who puts the word "form" after "ear" ? I don't think that's a common twosome. It's one of the things I point out in my inaugural posting : Allison't Own Thoughts on the Palin/Johnston Stories

    GOOD LUCK to us both! When I figure out how to list links to other blogs, yours will be prominent.

    The Palin Place Blogspot

  14. Allison, go to your Blogger Dashboard and click the Design link. Then choose Add a Gadget and select Link List. The box that pops up will allow you to name the Link List. Next, copy and paste the link from the other blog and add the site name as you wish it to appear in your link list.

  15. Hi Brad; congratulations on your blog!

    I've been analyzing ears and agree that there is/was no hole in front of Trig's ear. I think the top part of the cartilage was extra long and hung down, overlapping the bottom cartilage a little. This gave the appearance, to some, of a hole.

    The picture from Frank Bailey's book shows what the ear looks like as Trig grew. A piece of cartilage still hangs down, but no longer overlaps the bottom cartilage.

    Here is a link to that picture, which is enlarged on Immoral Minority:

    As Trig continued to grow, the extra cartilage appears to have grown into the appropriate place in his ear.

    Also note the bump at the very top of the ear. This is easy to spot in pictures of a very young Trig. As he grows, it smooths out alot, but not completely: the top of the right ear is thicker at the point where the bump was.

    I believe that Ruffles is Trig.

    Now, there were definitely several different babies who were passed off as Trig, especially during the 2008 campaign.

    One baby has a distinctive right ear for another reason--the tragus is not normal. It is shown on Palin's Peyton Place website. Bristol is holding this baby on August 29, 2008; the baby is wearing overalls.

    The author of this site writes that Trig's ear has been repaired. I don't think so; I think there are two different babies.

    My next step is to try to sort the pictures of the various babies and try to group them.

  16. Allison, I just read your post, and it's brilliant. You've nailed the hoax. Congrats. It's reassuring that you and I see things the same way. For others, here's the url:

    I get a lot of satisfaction in thinking (hoping) we've solved the major questions of the hoax.

  17. Hey Floyd, thanks for all your encouragement. You are the grand not-so-old man among the Trig Truthers. I have always admired your writings and you logical approach to everything.

  18. Thank you for the kind words, Brad. I just added a post to my blog about this subject, too. Tell me what you think.

  19. Thank you Allison & Brad! Geeze it hurts my head readin' all this....!
    Thanks for bein' the CSI of TriG Truthers! ☺☺☺

  20. Unless I misread Allison's post, the theory doesn't take the baby shower photos into consideration. How do the May baby shower photos with Ruffles appearing the same size as in the kitchen photos fit?

  21. Sorry Brad, I don't agree with the cryptotia thing; I checked around at some sites and Ruffle's defect does not appear to be consistent with that disorder.

    I agree with you that there is no misplaced hole, and that it is just an illusion.

    I think it is highly unlikely that the ruffled-eared baby's ears became perfect by the time of the RNC and campaign appearances. I think there were definitely two infants playing the part of Trig, and who's to know if Ruffles or round ear is the "real" Trig. Ruffles sure doesn't look like the robust full-term infant being held in the hospital by the Heaths.

  22. I can, in theory, accept your hypothesis- but in reality I just can't believe it. There are too many coincidences. We are cutting Sarah too much slack.

    It's natural we think of them: we're still looking at Babygate and its attendant mysteries as normal people. We tend to think that if there is an innocent explanation, that is what we should accept. Usually, that's what people do- try to think the best of others. That's typically the right thing to do: most people are in fact trying their best. The trouble is, SP is not an innocent person. At the best, she is greedy, dishonest and self-serving.

    In this case, we look at a picture of a severely malformed ear, one with the outer ear canal positioned anteriorly to the ear itself, which would require fairly extensive surgery to repair. That surgery would probably not be done in early infancy.

    And people are trying to minimize it, trying to find a way to normalize it. What is the least extensive malformation it could be, and how could it be repaired? Once again, we're trying to find a way to regularize the situation. Maybe it's really just this minor issue! Maybe it only took a few little snips to fix! But how likely is it that what looks as a severe deformity is actually this little thing?

    Sarah's not regular, she's not normal, and she's not even a very nice person. We are giving her the benefit of the doubt, after she has shown us time and again that she doesn't deserve it. What if this is just another one of those innocent little oddities? What are we going to believe, this incredible long-shot hypothesis or our lying eyes?

    I believe my eyes. I make no claim to otological expertise, but I can say that I have been looking and describing what I see, as a nurse, for 37 years now. I know I'm looking at a picture, and that pictures can deceive. But I don't think I am seeing a shadow that makes it actually look like a hole. I am seeing an abnormally positioned outer ear canal.

    I believe that Ruffles was born tiny, probably very premature, and very fragile, and possibly with Down syndrome. I believe he had major health problems not just from the prematurity, but from his mother's known substance abuse. I believe this ear deformity was not less than it appears to be: I believe it was as bad as it looks.

    And I believe that Trig at the RNC was a different baby completely. No, I don't know where he came from, but I know- the March 14th pictures show- he could not have come directly from Sarah.

    Once or twice, I can allow coincidences. I can allow for things being better than they look. Eventually, they defy the odds.

    Oh. And welcome to blogging. I enjoy your writing.

  23. I see what you mean. It looks like his earlobe is folded up, which is a possibility.

    I remember some sort of procedures that trig had that sarah didn't stick around while he was in the hospital. Could that be when he got the top part of the ear fixed? That looks like it could be extensive surgery.

  24. A trifle OT-- but I read on another blog, maybe IM, a commenter who suggested using Picasa to try face recognition with the various Trig faces. When you store photos in Picasa, it automatically labels the people in them based on the tags you start off with. So anyone with a Trig collection could try this. Label maybe three basic Trigs, as Trig 1,2,3 etc. Then ask Picasa to match the others.

    If you're photo savvy, maybe this is the job for you. It would be fun to see what the software believes about the assortment of Trig faces.


    PS. As Regina moves out, and possibly Laura, of Palinlandia, thank goodness Dr S and Allison are setting forth.

  25. I think it's a mistake to try to explain away these differences, through some surgery. The ear in the shower picture does not look folded, or bent to me. Not something that could be fixed by a mold or something silly. Not to mince words, it looks seriously fucked up.

    And Brad, this whole post ignores the obvious differences between the very chubby full term plus baby shown by the Heath grandparents at Mat-Su on April 18th (which can be dated with certainty) and the baby shown on April 21st. There is no way that is a six pound ten hour old preemie.

    This has been posted either at IM or in comments or both: focus on what happened between April 18th and May 4th.

  26. Ivyfree and Missy: Please see followup illustration here:

    The overlay shows features lining up almost perfectly – can't be due to chance, IMO.

  27. Congratulations on your new blog, Brad. Suggestion: put links to your Palin Truth-O-Meter and to the latest version of your paper, as well as a short summary of the reception the paper has gotten, incl whenever you submit it to your prof society, which I thought was the original purpose of it. I would love to see you do a questionnaire of the audience at your conference, re whether each audience member believes you, your info changed his/her viewpoint, etc.

  28. Amy1: Sadly, the paper was not accepted by my prof. association. The judges felt it was more of a magazine-type expose than traditional academic paper, and that is true. I hoped they would accept it anyway, but I can't complain because my overriding purpose was to write an expose and get wide exposure to it – and that has happened in spades. I have had many publications and professional presentations in my career, but none of them have had any impact on the world outside of academia. So the spiral of silence paper is the high point of my career.

    I'll provide links to the things you mention shortly.

  29. Do you know Tufte, Brad? I've read his books and been to one of his all-day lectures, and his big point is that it's all in how one presents info.

    He uses as examples:

    -- the mapping of cholera incidence by Snow in London as solving the (then) mystery of how cholera is transmitted, and from what.

    -- his chart of Napoleon's troops (size of force and its movement) is a classic that shows at a glance how the assault upon St Petersberg was lost.

    -- he maintains that better info presentation of the O-ring defects would have averted the disastrous Challenger launch.

    And I keep coming back to this point too: with all the hot political sensibilities re the PalinBabyHoax, and how easy it is to get into a too-complex recounting of it that turns newbies off, I keep thinking that some perfect way of presenting the info we already have (that SP was not pregnant as stated) is the answer to increasing awareness enough to overcome the high-level media blackout on it.

    I did write to Tufte, begging for his help, and got no answer, of course. I wonder if you have some way of conecting to him or someone equally talented (if that is even possible) in the presentation of info.

    (BTW: Ottoline = Amy1, as most of you know.)

  30. I totally bought the viewpoint that nothing can/should be done re ears before 5 yrs old, but here is a different viewpoint.

    I would of course put a lot more weight on an MD's opinion after viewing photos of the actual ears we are discussing (vs a do-it-yourself web search). But FWIW. I do notice Trig's hair is cut away from his ear much like they say to do in the video -- i.e., cut more that I ever did with my babies.

    Also here:

  31. Amy1: No, I don't know Tufte, but I looked up his stuff; it's very interesting. Thank you.

  32. Oh my, I just read more about Tufte and he's been appointed by Pres Obama to be on the team that tracks the recovery -- for his info-presentation skills no doubt. I guess he's willing to get his hands dirty with politics, but is also too high-level now to be interested in our problem.

    This appointment is one more huge plus for Obama in my book (as if I needed any more): to put someone at the top of a fairly arcane field (the presentation of info) onto one of the important teams speaks volumes to me about the President's smarts, strategy, attn to details, and his values re transparency.

    Wow! Just wow!

  33. Interesting. I'll be back,so post away.

  34. I've made a little progress but still haven't gotten in touch with my health reporter friend yet. However, shows that the Earwell system was not available for distribution until 2010. Which means Trig would have had to have been in a clinical trial to use the Earwell system. It's possible that there was an earlier system that was called something different that could have been used on Trig, but I have to figure out what these devices would have been called as a class to be able to search for their approval track in the FDA website.

    I haven't looked at Ear Buddies yet. They would still need FDA approval to be used in the U.S.

    I agree that the Earwell system looks as if it is removable. I'm thinking, though, that those molds would have to have been used very consistently and correctly to get the perfect ears we see in later photos.

    I like your hypothesis, Brad, I'm just trying to see if it's feasible. Nothing quite like having a hypothesis blow up because it needs an impossible ingredient!

  35. OL: Did you write the originator was in Texas? Palin has relatives in Texas - with that link, maybe they arranged for the baby to go to the guy who invented it.

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