Welcome to Girls On The Bus, hopefully the first in a series of short, but shrewd, insta-analyses of Mrs. Todd Palin on her latest narcissist odyssey. Or history field trip. Or just-get-me-the-fuck-away-from-the-two-toddlers-tour.

My partner in satirical and boldly biased analysis is wonder woman writer, feminist and managing editor and columnist for Politicususa, Sarah Jones.

LN:  Okay, Sarah, you’re seeing red. Mrs. Palin and her personal posse hijacking the Rolling Thunder Memorial Day parade in D.C. has got you jacked up. Kind of like the 4-inch stilettos and that water-filled wonder bra she’s sporting here.  How old is she again?

H/T to Karen J commenting on Gryphen's blog

Oh, where to begin, Laura? The glee-filled narcissist’s glow or the helmet that is tipped so her hair can blow and her face isn’t shadowed for the cameras? This is a picture that says “It’s always about ME!” And that’s what drives people nuts.

LN:  That, and the merit badges on her jacket. The only badges of honor that should be visible at that rally were those on the Veterans. But something tells me Palin wasn’t there for them.

SJ:  She stole the thunder, literally. As for the shoes, may I for a moment point out that one does not wear heels like that on a bike for obvious reasons? Instead of modeling safety (a disdained concept of “big government”, no doubt), what we have here is right wing political porn.

LN:  That’s right. With the hooters to match! And in later photos she tossed on a cross for good measure in case she failed to pander to anyone.

SJ:  Let me ask you and your readers something, Laura. Would Esther ride a motorcycle wearing high heels just for the cameras on a day when we are supposed to be remembering those missing in action and left behind? Would Jesus dress up like Michael Jackson on such a day? Would Reagan? Joan of Arc? I’m trying to cover all of the myth-co-opting narratives. Help me if I left one out.

LN:  Trust me, I was no fan of Ronnie (who calls their wife Mommie?) but I never read where he was anything but nice to the people around him. Michael Jackson was troubled, but gentle. Joan? I wasn’t crazy about her taste in clothes, but I digress. The mythology is frightening to those who can pierce it. And it’s lifeblood for those clinging to the idea that America has done them wrong.

SJ: I just read a quote from the KKK that mirrored Palin’s quotes about how the troops are fighting for our freedom of speech. The self-aggrandizing  (notice the shared theme) “Imperial Wizard”  of a KKK branch said, "It's the soldier that fought and died and gave them that right to free speech.” That statement shares the false premise of Ms Palin’s misunderstanding about what we are fighting for. She has said repeatedly that the troops are fighting for her freedom of speech (aka: right to smear the President). No one is trying to take away her freeom of speech (much as we might wish she would stop weighing in on important issues with her simpleton’s odes to Poujadism), but we fight to defend democracy or a foreign aggressor. No one is giving their lives specifically for our freedom of speech. Freedom of speech hasn’t been threatened, but then, Ms Palin isn’t in the White House.

LN:  Exactly! But what Mrs. Palin doesn’t know is that her girls will not be the only girls on her bus. Because I am going to burn my bra, slip into some comfortable clogs, and pop some corn. I’m getting on that bus with her. And I’m taking you with me.

From here on out, wherever the Palin Family Circus Vacation Paid With Political Money But Not A Campaign Bus goes, we’re going too. You with me?

SJ:  So long as she has an impact on our political debate and continues to try to take women’s rights back to the age before suffrage, I’ll be there, whether I like it or not. But if you’re there, the ride will be much more enjoyable. And while I don’t wear naughty monkeys, I might be inclined to put on a pair of heels if that’s what it takes to show that modern feminism has nothing to do with the Right’s stereotypes of feminism. Solidarity!

Once a month we work as a family at the Berkeley Men’s Shelter. We cook for and serve dinner to about 55 men. It is wonderfully rewarding work for us and for our son. We’ve been doing this for several years through our church, most often working with only one other couple, or a family we’ve known since kindergarten.

Last night the census was low. Only 40 men were there, with five late arrivals. After we’d cooked and served, I sat down at a table and ate my dinner with four of the men. One of them didn’t speak. One had the gift of gab. The remaining two were taciturn but engaging, if that makes sense.

We talked about their mothers and children, their home cities and historical facts about presidents and holidays. They said there were fewer men there because it was the holiday and people travel. This made me marvel that even the homeless get out of Berkeley on long weekends.

One gentleman asked about my birthday and regaled me with a vast knowledge of astrology. He said he developed a penchant for it when he was stationed in the army. We talked of his service but I stopped myself from asking how he’d ended up in the shelter. Sometimes they describe their journey. This time, he didn’t offer and I didn’t ask.

It’s not as if we don’t see many homeless in the Bay Area. We do, all the time. But up close in the shelter, you see not street people so much as men with a variety of complex problems:  addiction, mental illness, criminal activity and severe health issues. We see them try to hoard food because they don’t know where their next meal will come from. And we always have to say no, that we can’t give them tin foil to take an extra dessert back to their rooms.

I just hadn’t heard anyone talk about his time in the U.S. military before last night. I’ve seen men who look like they belong on the Berkeley campus teaching grad school, but I understand that life happens and anyone can slip through the cracks.

But how the U.S. government fails a person who served time in the military for his country…that leaves me speechless.

As I said, we love this work we do as a family. It’s physically challenging and can be mentally exhausting. I return home each time and count my blessings. And I usually cry because there is always one man in the crowd who inevitably breaks my heart.

But this time, I fell mute. Because this man wasn’t riding a Harley or shouting for Sarah to “Look over here!”  This man was wondering what he’d do the next day and how, where and when he’d eat again.

Like so many other forgotten and neglected Vets, this man had served his country. And he deserved better than to find him self on a rainy, cold night, telling me that my moon was in Capricorn.

With thanks to all who quietly serve their country and fellow man, and make this world a better place.  Happy Memorial Day. 

After all, a cigar is just a cigar...
I made the acquaintance of a feminist psychologist (PhD) in a social setting who graciously allowed me to ask her a few questions about Sarah Palin. She does not treat Mrs. Palin, as far as I know, though she could not confirm that even if I was so silly as to ask.

But PhD did agree to toss some tidbits my way. And while I hope this will become a semi-regular feature that will allow readers to pose questions of their own, I will begin with our brief discussion of a new buzz phrase:  Situationally Acquired Narcissism.  PhD writes me the following...

When we evaluate someone's "disorder" generally in the old days we'd start with exploring primary gain and identifying secondary gain

Once we determine what's in it for the patient then we look at history and begin to weave together a working hypothesis, and try on different psychopathologies.  

Some people suggest that Palin is stupid.  Perceived stupidity  can ironically be confused with Narcissism.  That self important, inflated sense of entitlement that operates within a vacuum surrounded by tunnel vision.  The question is: Is this a fundamental core character disorder or is it situationally acquired.  An important question since one involves severe psychopathology at the core-- suggesting early trauma and neglect among other things.  Acquired along the way is a response to projected power and abuse thereof.

I think this speaks to acquired Narcissism.   It encourages an honest assessment of who surrounds the narcissist and who feeds


Thank you, Phd, for getting us started on this line of inquiry. Here is some more to read about those afflicted with ASN.

If you'd like to comment or leave questions, I hope PhD will come back for more Crunch, er, Shrink Wrap Supreme. Like Doc, she's very busy, and I don't know how much I can ask of her. Or if you are or know someone in the field of psychology who'd like to toss out some more tidbits for us to digest, I'd welcome that. 

I'd like to examine the role of families who enable mentally ill people; projection; lying; Borderline Personality Disorder; and other organic brain diseases. Hopefully, we can make this a regular feature.

Or....The Amazing Shape Shifting of Sarah Palin in 2008. A conversation with Prof. Brad Scharlott

LN: I am back with Professor Brad Scharlott. Today he offers his analysis of the few photographs available on the Internet of Mrs. Palin purportedly pregnant in the Spring of 2008. Here he compresses them into a fascinating timeline.

BS: Let’s examine changes in Sarah Palin’s shape in the month or so before April 18, 2008, when she claimed to give birth to Trig. Consider the following four pictures, all of which have been lightened to show better detail, but no other changes have been made:
The first picture, on the far left, appeared in the Anchorage Daily News on March 14, 2008, nine days after Palin announced that she was seven months pregnant, and four and half weeks before she allegedly gave birth to Trig.

The next picture, to the right, was published on April 14 of this year (more than three years after it was taken) in the Anchorage Daily News, accompanying an article by Julia O’Malley titled “Make. It. Stop.” (The “It” she wants stopped is any further examination of the faked-pregnancy question. The point of the picture was to “prove” that Palin was pregnant in March 2008.) This picture, as far as I can determine, was not published in 2008.

Next over are two screen shots, one above the other, taken a fraction of a second apart as a video camera panned down. These were taken by Israeli filmmaker Elan Frank on either April 8 or 9 (he shot footage on both days). Palin, standing in her kitchen in these shots, was talking on a phone while smoothing her scarf. Fox News bought the video footage and showed the clip these screen shots came from. (The screen shots were captured at about the 0:16 mark of this video: Elan Frank Interviews Sarah Palin-April 2008 part 1.)

Finally we see Palin shot from the side five days before the purported birth. This picture is a cropped version of a photo showing Palin being interviewed by KTVA-TV reporter Andrea Gusty in the capitol building in Juneau. The curious circumstances surrounding the origin of this photo will warrant a closer look in the future.

Laura, does anything jump out at you as you view these four pictures? Keep in mind they are in chronological order.

LN: The first thing I notice is that Mrs. Palin appears wider in March than she does in April. But playing the contrarian here, I’m going to say that’s just angles and lighting.

But also (too) in March, Mrs. Palin appears to have, as crazy as it sounds, a bulge in her upper back. And worse still, a light stripe down her back, just along her shoulder blade. As if she had a bullet proof vest or something ELSE PADDED on underneath her black suit. Again, I recognize that I have a tendency to SHOUT a lot during our conversations. But you see, I feel as if I’ve just fallen down a rabbit hole and I want to make sure you can HEAR ME because these photos are freaking me out. And I just want someone to Make.It.Stop.

The third thing is that the final picture, known widely as the “Gusty Photo,” indicates a rather massive amount of fetal development over the course of four days. And of course, the absence of the ubiquitous scarf. As if to say, “Look at this!”

BS:  Let’s take those points one at a time. As to Palin’s width, she looks wider in that photo than the human eye would have perceived her because of lens distortion. The right-hand picture in this box is how she would have looked to someone viewing her at the scene:

For the technically oriented, the distortion fix involved a “keystoning” correction (because the photograph was shot from below) and a horizontal perspective correction because a wide-angle lens caused a “stretching” of elements. (And thanks to commenters on your blog, Laura, who helped me correctly diagnose the distortion issue in this picture after we discussed it here a short time ago.)

So you are right, Laura, she truly was not as “wide” as she appeared in the first picture – which makes the contrast between the first and second pictures in the timeline box even greater. Let me also say I am virtually certain she is wearing the same jacket in both those pictures – note the collar and the pockets. (It may be the same jacket in all the pictures, in fact, but it’s harder to tell with the last ones.) So the jacket is big enough to accommodate a very pregnant Palin. But for some reason she is not filling it out in the first picture. And note the flat stomach below her scarf.

In the second picture, the extra room in that jacket is being taken up by … what? … huge shoulder pads? Not to be unkind, but Palin looks like a linebacker in this photo. And compare that torso profile to the one in the two screen shots just to the right of it – she looks positively svelte in those. Plus Palin’s profile simply looks wrong in this photo. I just looked at a bunch of side shots of very pregnant women online, and the way her back slopes from her head seems abnormal. With most very pregnant women, the weight of the large belly causes the back to arch forward, but in this shot of Palin, the heaviness of her torso seems to hang straight down from her shoulders.

And finally the most remarkable change of all – the appearance of a large round belly on April 13, whereas four or five days earlier, there was no baby bump at all in the screen shots. Again, the Elan Frank video played on Fox News and can be seen on YouTube; its authenticity cannot be doubted. And while the fourth photo appeared under mysterious circumstances, there is no reason to think it has been altered.

So my question to you, Laura, is what could account for the change in body mass in those four photos – she seems to go from smaller to bigger to smaller to bigger, and not just a little bit. The change from the video screen shots to the last photo are especially striking.

LN: See, I disagree with you here on one point, Brad. I think she does look like there is something under her ubiquitous black jacket in the Elan Frank video still shots. So I wouldn’t say completely flat. But certainly slimmer than what, quite literally, pops out at us in the right-hand side Gusty photo. But remember that those Frank photos were taken during the same shoot as the Sponge Sarah Square Pillow photo we analyzed the other day. And I might add that someone contacted me to say that he is a Photoshop “expert” himself and that everything you said about the square pillow was right on target.

As far as explaining this to you, I cannot. I would like to claim, yet again, angles and lighting and some other-worldly force that can explain the shape shifting that went on with this woman and her pregnancy. All I can say is that in a recent post I showed myself at 5 months. I got big. And then I got bigger. And then bigger with my own pregnancy. There was simply no going back.

And speaking of backs: Do you think that is the bulge and outline of a pregnancy belly? Don’t you have a photo of one of those things somewhere?

BS: Well, there’s no getting around the idea that Palin might have been wearing a prosthesis – a “fat suit” – in the second and fourth photos. A variety of such fake pregnancy devices are available on the Internet and through other channels. In the graphic below I show one from eBay and superimpose it over the image of Palin from the Gusty photo.


BS: And yes, Laura, as you suggest, a fat suit could account for the bulge in the shoulder and other oddities in the second picture.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this. I can see no explanation other than a prosthesis for the astonishing changes in Palin’s body shape in the month before her purported delivery of Trig. And I seriously would like your readers in the comments section to let me know if they have other ideas.

LN: Thank you again, Brad, for your time. I also want to highlight this fascinating website:

I know there are a lot of models out there and places to purchase fake baby bellies (who knew?) But I found this site interesting because it shows the different stages one can purchase.  And how small and portable these devices can be (and how easily they might fly back from Texas!)

And finally, I want to leave this post with this thought: I am wide open to hearing from anyone, anywhere, who knows for certain that the then-governor was indeed pregnant - and can prove it. Because the idea of a sitting governor strapping on fake baby foam, in an assortment of sizes and colors, just gets too crazy town for me. And I want – I welcome ­- someone to prove that Mrs. Palin gave birth to Trig on 4/18/08 so we can put this puppy to bed (even though the good neonatologist has shown in a recent, barn-burner of a post, that the baby presented as such was born earlier than that day.)

Problem is:  I’m hearing about a definitive hoax from “readers in the know.” Trust me when I say that a great many of you in Alaska are reading this blog and writing to me. And so far I’m only hearing from folks who say it was common knowledge that Mrs. Palin faked it. And it was common knowledge that “other” family members were pregnant.  Others who supposedly can offer proof of a pregnancy are closing down like Ipswich clams. Please, email me at:  LaNovakAuthor@yahoo.com


Quick Take Tuesday, a blog of tasteful, yet shameless, self-promotion involving an author or someone of equal social standing. I ask two questions, and then my guest turns the table and asks me two questions, as long as they don’t involve pounds or pant size.

Today’s guest is:  Greg Kihn, legendary rocker with the Greg Kihn Band, radio-man on the Classic Rocker, KFOX, in San Francisco, and, who knew? Writer.

LN: You know, My Love’s In Jeopardy just talking to you now. I mean, that voice of yours! You’re like a sex machine with a microphone. And you’re a busy writer. I had no idea. Tell me everything, and just lean over and whisper it right here in my ear.

GK: I can’t help it, I have this animal magnetism.  But let’s be honest, it took years of abuse to get this voice.  I’m lucky I’m still alive after what I did back in the 80’s.  I think I’m channeling the spirits of other, better writers because I feel like I’m surfing the big waves now. And I seem to be in the middle of a super creative period. I’ve written the pilot and several episodes for a TV series that we’ll be shopping to the major networks next month. And I’ve already had some interest, so that’s really exciting. The show combines rock and roll, the mafia and the record business in the 1960s. Rockers and wiseguys. Something I know a lot about. Meantime, I’ve also written the screenplay for my first novel called “Horror Show” and I’m slowly but surely moving along with that production. And I’ve written another novel that I’ll be publishing online, with the audio book leading the way.  It’s called “Rubber Soul.”

LN: Wow, They Don’t Write ‘em Like That Anymore!  I’ve got rubber knees from just listening to you. And yet you’re still pumping out the music. And you’re waking up millions of people every morning from Santa Rosa to Santa Cruz.  Do you ever sleep?

GK:  Well, it keeps me busy during the week.  My unique (some might call inhuman) hours of getting up at 3:45am, gives me my afternoons free for writing (if I can keep my eyes open) and it’s nice to be finished with all my radio work by lunchtime.  I need down time to come up with ideas. I have a ton of stuff going on at the moment.  I’ve released a new digital 3-CD boxed set of Greg Kihn Band nuggets called KIHNPLETE. Yeah, I know! It’s important because it contains the work of all these famous musicians who have been in my band over the decades, like Joe Satriani, Steve Douglas, Jimmy Lyon. Guys like that. It has historical juice, but it’s just a whole bunch of great music, live versions of the hits and some rare studio takes. It’s great, easy to promote and all post-Bezerkeley!  And other than that, I’ve been doing the morning show for 15 years and now that we’ve got a new owner, Entercom, I work in a beautiful penthouse studio in downtown SF!


GK: Okay, your turn, Laura. I get to interview a lot of interesting people. Just this week I interviewed the great Dick Van Dyke.  I asked him 2 questions, which I thought were the heart of the interview and revealed quite a lot, so now I’ll ask you the same two:  What do you hate most about yourself?  What is your best trait?

LN: I hate that I am loyal to people long after they have shown me that I should not be. I’ve gotten better about that, though. By the same token, my best trait is my loyalty toward and love for the greatest people in my life: My husband and son. But a close second is my resiliency. Against so many odds, I am preparing to launch my novel this year:  “Finding Clarity: A Mom, A Dwarf and a Posh Private School in the People’s Republic of Berkeley” is going to hit electronic devices near you soon and I am immensely proud of that. One of the top literary agents in the country burned me and the editor I hired turned out to be the biggest fraud. Two people I was foolishly loyal to took a year apiece out of this novel’s life. Setbacks like that eventually propel me forward and I am thankful for that strength.

GK: Imagine free speech heroes like Lenny Bruce, Richard Prior, or George Carlin trying to break in with today’s public discourse.  Do you find that it’s hard to stay creative in this overly P-C world? 

LN: There is something nostalgic about those names and how unique and risqué it was to find voices willing to say the things society wouldn’t accept. That no one else dared breath. And yet where would we be if everyone existed without boundaries? Well, we’d be where we are and you’re right, how would their comedic talents even be noticed? Personally, I don’t have a problem being polite. Manners are a good thing. Yet, now that I am older, it is nice to let my proverbial hair down and use words in my writing that I certainly could not while writing for The New York Times, or while reporting on-air. “Finding Clarity” is full of slang, swear words, and certain references that are bound to insult and infuriate. I didn’t write it for that purpose alone. I wrote what I did because that’s who the characters are. It’s what they needed to say. So, I can’t define my novel as overly P-C at all. It’s bound to piss off some people. And see? What kind of lady uses the word “piss” in her blog? One who is fifty, and finally free, that’s who.


LN:  Thank you for joining me on Quick Take Tuesday, morning man, rock legend and sex pistol of my dreams, Greg Kihn! I think I’ve got a contact high just from talking to you. But I would be remiss in my duties as a host if I didn’t wind on down the road and tell you I was just listening to your station and I’ve got a bustle in my hedgerow. Seriously, final request:  Stairway to Heaven,  break it down for me in 126 words.

GK: About Stairway- I have looked at the song from every conceivable angle, having played it on the air for 15 years, and for me, even past the songwriting, the lyrics, Robert's vocal, the beautiful recorder arrangement by JP Jones, even past all that brilliance - and the fact that it is the most played song on the radio of all time - it's all about Jimmy Page.  His guitars are Zen-like.  He uses 5 different guitars in that one song, overdubbed standing on his head basically, that makes the song special.  The 12 string intro on the acoustic, the reedy-sounding Danelectro, the Gibson Les Paul beefy chords, and the incredible Telecaster solo at the end – wow - it's a tour de force.  It's all about the guitars!

LN:  And it’s all about your encyclopedic knowledge of rock ‘n roll.  I might not remember all of the 70’s, but I do remember the 80’s in San Francisco. Come back some day and riff with me about Huey, Boz,Carlos…and I’ll tell you about the time I went back stage with Bob Seger and Silver Bullet Band. Deal?

GK:  You got it. 

Here I am, five months pregnant. Each month on the same day, my husband would snap a photo of me at our health club. By this time we knew our baby was going to face some serious medical challenges, and with all the Braxton-Hicks contractions, I was only allowed to walk the track slowly. A month later I was home for the duration on bed rest, eating a lot of Rocky Road ice cream, and watching the O.J. trial.

The photo is 16-years-old now, as is our son, and the quality rather poor (although our son is fabulous!) But I know for a fact there was no room for a square pillow in there.

I also know that every part of me got bigger - and stayed bigger. Which leads me to say that on Wednesday, I'll post my next discussion with Prof. Brad Scharlott about things that get big and then small and then bigger, and, well, you know.

On Tuesday, I simply must post one of my Quick Take Tuesday interviews - this time with rocker Greg Kihn - that I've had in my "evergreen" file for too long. You know his songs, so enjoy the piece. It's fast, fun and you can even sing along.

Feel free to comment on anything here. And if Blue Dog AK checks in, can you please reach me at my Contact page?

Cheers, Laura

When we last left the neonatologist who graciously gives us his time on this blog, mention was made of the Trig Palin photos reportedly taken when he was less than 24-hours old.  Here is the baby being held by the governor’s mother, reportedly within 12 hours of being born. 

LN:  No reason to dance around here, Doc, what do you see?

DOC: This baby looks to be about 1-2 months old and doesn’t look premature. Premature babies don’t have a lot of subcutaneous fat. This baby is chubby. He has epicanthal folds, flat nasal bridge and a recessed chin, which are suggestive of Down syndrome. Down syndrome babies can be chubby, but if they’re premature, it’s not so prominent.

LN:  What don’t you see?

DOC:  First, the baby does not look plethoric (ruddy) and may look just slightly jaundiced. Most babies are born with extra red blood cells and look ruddy at birth. This is especially true of preemies because their skin is thinner. As that extra blood is broken down, it releases bilirubin, a pigment that turns the skin yellow. At 24 hours of age, most babies will still be ruddy. Visible jaundice usually develops between 24 and 72 hours of age.

Another clue to me is the absence of milia. Milia are tiny white bumps that are usually seen on the nose, cheeks and chin. They are caused by dead skin clogging up the pores and are a normal finding in newborns that can persist for a few weeks. Most newly born babies will have some of this.

Newborns are born with extra fluid in their bodies. Most newborns will show some evidence this in their face. The eyelids are often puffy. This can disappear after 24 hours of age, so it’s not as good for timing the picture, but I can’t see any eyelid edema on this baby.

One more thing that may be missing from this picture is lanugo. This is hair that we see mostly on the arms and back, but also often on the cheeks of premature babies. It disappears after about 35 weeks so it doesn’t precisely age this baby, but does suggest an age greater than 35 weeks.

LN:  How do we know that it isn’t just the zoom on the camera.  Perhaps at this distance you can see a baby who was said to be less than one day old?

DOC: I think this is just a zoom of the first picture; even the wrinkles in the blanket are the same. It’s really hard to estimate the size of the baby, but he doesn’t look all that small to me. I have nothing to compare him to. Compare the color of his skin to the person holding him. It’s not that different. In this picture he doesn’t look ruddy or jaundiced at all. Perhaps they adjusted the color of the first photo to enhance the jaundice? 

LN:  I’m trying not to grasp at straws, but how about how tiny he looks in this photo with Mr. and Mrs. Palin?


DOC: He doesn’t look all that tiny to me, but since I usually take care of babies in the 1 to 5 pound range, normal newborns look huge. I did something interesting with this picture. I measured the ratio of intercanthal distance (ICD) between the baby and his parents. The ICD is the distance between the inner aspects of the eyes. The normal newborn ICD is 22 mm (in Caucasian babies) and for adults it’s 28.5 mm. This gives you a ratio of 0.77 (newborn/adult), which means that the normal newborn measurement is 77% of an average adult. I used this ratio, because I don’t have any other way of figuring out the actual measurements in this picture. I measured the ratio from the picture and got a ratio of 0.76 (76%), which suggests that this is a full term baby. Babies with Down syndrome often have closely spaced eyes, so you would expect an even lower value. Just to be fair, the major weaknesses of my calculations are that none of them are looking straight at the camera and there is variation between people.

(I’ve included a link at the end to the actual scientific paper that this comes from)

By the way, Sarah looks good for someone who just had a baby 3 days ago.

LN:  And yet it’s evident this baby has Down syndrome, because infants are nose breathers, so I have to assume his mouth is open for reasons related to the Down syndrome.

DOC: Babies with Down syndrome have macroglossia (enlarged tongue) and you can see that clearly from this picture; that’s why the mouth looks open. They also have low muscle tone so that sometimes the mouth just opens due to gravity. You might think this baby looks ruddy, but it’s only in the cheeks, so that’s more likely a rash. You can see facial rashes like that on newborns, but they’re more common in slightly older babies. To me this baby does look slightly jaundiced, especially in the nose. The nose is often the first place you’ll see jaundice, but it’s also often the last place before the jaundice resolves.

LN:  Does this macroglossia look consistent with a baby older than 3 days? Does the condition increase, so to speak?
DOC: Not that I know of. The macroglossia stays stable in my experience.
LN:  So if this baby was 1-2 months old, do you see any indications that he was a preemie then? Or do you see signs then that this baby was born at normal gestational age? 
DOC: The Palins claim that Trig was born at 35 weeks but these pictures seem to show a baby who is the size of full-term baby, without a lot of the findings that you see in the newly born. This suggests that he was born prematurely and is now old enough that it’s around his due date.

LN:  You refer to this as the “adjusted age”, correct? Can you explain that further to our readers who might be unfamiliar with the term?

DOC: “Adjusted” age is a way of referring to a baby’s age in terms of their due date. A preemie who was born 5 weeks early (35 weeks) is only 1 month old “corrected” when they are 10 weeks old because they are 5 weeks older than their due date.

LN:  And how would this tie in to the heart defect that this Down syndrome baby might have had at birth. Any indication that that the baby Trig, above, has already been operated on?
DOC: An atrial septal defect (ASD) would not be apparent. If the baby had an unprepared ventricular septal defect (VSD) or an endocardial cushion defect (ASD + VSD), he might have been somewhat cyanotic (blue). Most VSDs are repaired before 6 months of age, so I wouldn’t expect to see anything at this point. He looks pink to me, so I don’t see anything significant here.

LN:  Now, take a look at this photo of a different baby. What do you see here?

DOC: This baby is very ruddy, with perhaps a trace of jaundice. Look at difference between the color of the baby and the adult’s hand. I can’t tell size from this picture, but this baby was recently born, and is probably no more than 1-2 days old.

LN: Here’s another picture, what can you conclude from this one?

DOC:  This picture shows a baby who is more jaundiced than ruddy, so this baby is probably a few days old. I may see a bit of milia here, but I can’t be sure. However, there is a ruler in this picture so I can actually measure the ICD. Using the markings on the suction/feeding tube, which are always in centimeters, I can see that the ICD of this baby is about 20mm (I’m probably overestimating, since the tube is not exactly parallel to the plane of the picture). That puts this baby into the premature range, at least in terms of size. Go back and compare this picture to the pictures of Trig. You can clearly see that Trig is much less ruddy. This is a newly born baby and the pictures of Trig show a baby who is probably about 1-2 months old. The ICD measurements back this up. This baby is premature (at least by size) and the pictures of Trig show a full term-sized baby.

LN:  As you now know, these photos are of my son. But I want to be clear that you did not know this before you analyzed the photos.

Now I will tell you that in the first photo, he is about 15 hours old. Compare that look to the photo of Trig at about 12 hours old.

In the second photo, he is either 2 or 3 days old, I can’t be sure because I hadn’t yet seen him (I as still in the birth hospital) and didn’t take this photo.  He was born prematurely at 36 and 5/7 weeks. So in this second photo, he’s just hitting 37 weeks gestation.

DOC: That makes sense. He’s quite ruddy in the first picture and more jaundiced than ruddy in the second. His ICD is smaller than normal term size too. When you consider the pictures of Trig and your son together, it’s pretty apparent that they are very different. I think most people would agree. It’s very helpful to have real pictures of baby with a known age and gestation to compare to Trig. 

LN:  In a recent post, I embedded a clip of comedian Kathy Griffin riffing on Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin. In it, Griffin says that Bristol got pregnant at 16. I think it’s common knowledge that Levi confided in Kathy. If this is true, how does a 16-year-old hide a premature baby for 2 months?
DOC: Most 35-weekers don’t spend a lot of extra time in the hospital. About half of them don’t even go to the NICU, even for babies with Down syndrome.  It’s possible that he went home shortly after delivery and was kept quiet. Wasn’t Bristol home with “mononucleosis” for 6 months? That could explain it.
LN:  I know from experience that when a hospital is ready to discharge, they discharge. I always wondered if the Wild Ride was due to the news, not that labor had started, but that discharge was underway.
DOC: Hospital discharge from the newborn nursery is driven by insurance, while NICU discharge is driven by the baby’s status. However, if we are to suspect that people at the hospital are participating in a cover-up, I’m sure they could figure out a way to keep the baby longer. So the question in my mind is, how do we explain the need for the so-called “wild ride” if the baby was already born? I’m not sure I have an answer for that.

LN:  But one thing that many people are likely not familiar with is that babies who are in a NICU have, quite literally, never been out in the world, other than transport. They have not lived anywhere else.  When a baby who has been discharged from a NICU later becomes sick or has surgery, they almost always go to a PICU (pediatric ICU) or to a floor. That of course is because they have already been exposed to germs that newborns in a NICU have not.

In such a case, a baby who was readmitted to the hospital down the road might go to a regular pediatric ward, in, say, a smaller, regional hospital, and not a NICU.

DOC: That’s correct, once discharged to home, most babies if readmitted would go to a general pediatric floor or PICU. Are you asking if Trig might have been discharged from a pediatric floor for treatment of something due to his heart or some infection? If so, the rules for discharge are much stricter from these settings than from the NICU. They wouldn’t let him stay longer if he was well.

LN:  A final thought for me is that I recall a famous case in California where the children ended up down the hallway from us when my son was once on “the floors.”  It became apparent who these children were, and I even got a nurse to admit it to me! But they had fake names on the outside of the door. But there was just a frisson in the air. People knew who these kids were, even though the hospital tried to hide it.

DOC: It’s our hospital’s policy to use the patient’s real name in the electronic medical record. However, there are no names on the doors and we only use initials on the whiteboards, per HIPAA guidelines. Unless you knew a VIP was in a particular room, you wouldn’t be able to tell by what’s written on the door.

LN: So, in summary, what do you think about these photos of Trig Palin. What’s your margin of error?

DOC:  These pictures of Trig appear to show a full term size baby who was probably born a month or so ago. I base these conclusions on skin color and the imperfect ICD measurements. None of these findings are absolute, as babies can vary in size and color, but if I had to bet money, I’d say that Trig wasn’t born yesterday, so to speak, in these pictures.


Facial Measurements in the Newborn; Omotade, OO http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1017131/pdf/jmedgene00044-0014.pdf

In keeping with the spirit of interviewing other journalists and experts for my blog, I contacted Patrick Dougherty, Senior Vice President and Editor of the Anchorage Daily News.

I invited him to have an email “sit down” to discuss this story that will not die. I wanted to further the story that his newspaper was working on two years ago that prompted the testy email exchange between him and Mrs. Palin about why the theories on Trig Palin’s birth would not go away. I saw this as an opportunity to explain how and why newspapers might view, and treat, information differently from bloggers.

Mr. Dougherty graciously declined my invitation. He said that the story of persistent rumors does not interest him any more than President Obama’s birth certificate conspiracy. I pressed the point that his paper was closer to the Palin story due to his earlier efforts to lay it to rest. And of course due the Anchorage Daily News’ geographical proximity and role as the paper of record for Alaska and its government.

Still, he declined my offer. Our emails have been pleasant and polite. And I accepted his answer.

But I would not be who I am if I did not ask one further question. Could Mr. Dougherty confirm the oft repeated statement that Dr. Cathy Baldwin-Johnson brought an attorney with her to an interview at the Anchorage Daily News?  

He provided me with this answer, as well as permission to paste it directly into this post:

No, that's a myth. Cathy Baldwin-Johnson never came to the Daily News for an interview. As far as I know, she has never been near the ADN building. In the telephone interview or interviews we had with her (I don't recall whether it was one or more than one), there was no mention of her having an attorney or thinking about involving one, nor was there ever any explicit or implied threat of legal action against the newspaper, which would have immediately involved me personally. It's a complete invention that doesn't appear to have ever been attributed to named, knowledgeable source.

I thank Mr. Dougherty for taking the time to clarify this point.


In our emails, Mr. Dougherty referred me to his blog page for further reading on his coverage about the Daily News’ coverage of the Trig controversy at the time.

Scrolling down a bit, you can find a list of posts dated around January 13, 2009, addressing the rumors, the story and of course the recap of Mr. Dougherty's exchange with the then governor.

But in particular, I found this post interesting. In it, Mr. Dougherty explains to another Alaskan journalist why he would not pursue the Trig story:

I think most competent journalists would recognize "the persistence of bizarre claims surrounding the birth of any governor's son" as the basis of a potentially interesting story. Most competent journalists would also understand that the story doesn't work if it can't show that the claims are false. For the purpose of a newspaper story, it's only a "bizarre conspiracy theory" if we can demonstrate that it's untrue, which is why we wanted to document the truth. Up until now, we have had no interest in proving to the real doubters that Trig was indeed Sarah Palin's baby.

I don’t understand this part:  Most competent journalists would also understand that the story doesn't work if it can't show that the claims are false. 

I think a story about why a story will not die is a valid story. It involves stating the rumors, interviewing one or two people who persist in stating the rumors are true, asking for their proof if they have it, and then interviewing, indeed even giving the last word to, in this case, Mrs. Palin, for her side of the story. When she refused to cooperate, that, in this competent journalist’s view, was indeed part of the story. Or perhaps I’m just incompetent.

Is it true that journalists only report a story if they could prove that it is not true? What if a reporter ended up learning that the claims were true? Or in the end had to report that they could not, in fact, debunk the rumors, no matter how hard they tried?

And while I can fully appreciate someone not wishing to learn that something truly bizarre has taken place, no less in the office of the governor, I don’t believe it is up to a journalist to avoid a story because it won’t prove what he or she wants it to prove, which is that the rumors are baseless. 

As I’ve said before, I can truly see both sides of this story - and I could envision two possible outcomes. And since there is no clear, consistent, public account of the birth of Trig Palin, it is understandable why bloggers persist in trying to learn the truth. And it is apparent to me why a newspaper of record, or any reputable medium, wants solid, factual proof in order to report a story.

But there is, in my opinion, still a story here about why the story won’t go away. Especially now in view of the fact that a sitting governor was able to conceal the paternity of his “love child” for ten years from his family and the public. Ten years! How many medical professionals, government officials, and friends of both Mr. Schwarzennegger and his personal employee knew and kept it quiet?

I will leave off with a link to this article in MediaMatters that Mr. Dougherty also posts in his blog.

The crux of the article is that Mrs. Palin distorted the truth about the Trig stories by blaming the MSM for running with them when, in fact, they did not (author Eric Boehlert does a thorough job shooting her down and disproving her version of events.)  If she could "make things up" about the media, could she make things up to the media?  It is admirable that journalists and bloggers are trying to put the “bizarre conspiracy theory” to rest – whether it’s true, or not.

So I say to anyone out there listening, as Andrew Sullivan, who thoroughly documented the provable Lies of Sarah Palin said so succinctly to John McCain’s campaign manager, Steve Schmidt:  Prove it.

Sponge Sarah Square Pillow, or How ‘Tight Abs’ Palin  Made Christina Aguilera Look Chubby, by Prof. Brad Scharlott

Sponge Sarah Square Pillow.  There is no other name for it. But is there an explanation?

LN:  What a composite, Brad Scharlott. But, please, MAKE.IT.STOP! I don’t mean to shout. But my head hurts from looking at this freeze-frame (the lower one above) of Mrs. Palin’s mid-section circa April 2008. 

BS:  What we are looking at is a screen capture from one of the famous Elan Frank video scenes shot April 7-8 in 2008, when Palin was supposed to be about eight months pregnant – about 10 days before she reportedly gave birth. For those who have seen it, this is the point in the video where Sarah thumps her stomach while making some strange comments (which we’ll get to shortly) about her tight abs helping hide her pregnancy.

I have no idea who deserves credit for first brightening this segment of the video, but for at least a few years folks have known that if you lighten a screen grab from this part, what you see looks remarkably like a square pillow where Sarah’s stomach should be. (Andrew Sullivan recently ran essentially the same picture in his blog.)

I thought it might be helpful to see another very pregnant belly for comparison, so here is Christina Aguilera at about seven and a half months pregnant:

Now let’s juxtapose the bellies: 
Of course this is not a fair comparison, because Aguilera was 27 years old and in her first pregnancy, whereas Palin would have been in her forties with her fifth full-term baby, so of course you would expect Chistina to have a smaller … um … it seems Christina has a bigger … hmm … how tight are Sarah’s abs, anyway?

LN:  But you’re also talking different angles, fabric versus skin. Sitting versus standing.

BS: I did look for picture of an eight-month pregnant woman sitting like Palin, but not many are to be found. The standing versus sitting actually helps make my point – the belly of a pregnant woman will bunch up more when she is sitting than when she is standing, yet here we see the standing Aguilera with a bigger belly than the sitting Palin. Likewise, the lack of material around Aguilera’s belly should make it seem smaller versus Palin’s, which is clothed.

As to the angle, the side view of Aguilera’s belly gives us a sense of the typical roundness of a very pregnant woman’s stomach. We don’t have that same angle with Palin, but two things let us know that her belly is more flat than round. First, the position of her hands, which we can see are nearly flat as they slap against the belly. And, second, the pattern of light being reflected off the material covering the stomach. I uniformly lightened the picture – I did not move any pixels nor did I give isolated areas special treatment. So the relative flatness you perceive in the stomach area is an accurate depiction of reality – her belly really does look more like a first-base bag than a basketball.

LN:  But let’s be honest: Couldn’t Palin’s appearance easily be explained by the way the black shirt folded under her bust and under her belly?

BS:  Well, Laura, perhaps you should watch the video here: ‪Elan Frank Interviews Sarah Palin-April 2008 part 1. (Go to about 0:27 for the belly thump.) As you can see, the camera pans up and down from her face to her midsection, and you can see the black shirt is hugging her body – there are no odd folds creating an illusion.

LN: The shadows on the sides. They can be shadows, right? Not necessarily the contours of a SQUARE PILLOW! I’m sorry. I’m shouting again.

BS:  Well, actually, Frank was using professional lighting equipment to ensure there would be no distracting shadows.

Sadly for me, I’ve never experienced a pregnancy up close and personal. My wife and I have adopted two children, but we have not had children biologically. So I have no good sense of what shape an eight-month pregnant lady’s belly may take. But I sense you are not comfortable with the square pillow shape. Why is that?

LN: Because I simply do not want to believe that this woman – any woman – shoved a square pillow under her shirt. I do not want to believe anyone could so smugly mug for the camera and thump a pillow. It’s abnormal beyond reason. It would be insane.

BS: Well, as I mentioned, Sarah says some odd things when talking to Frank – let’s have a look at a transcription:

[Sarah talking as she thumps her belly] “I feel great! It’s been extraordinarily comfortable and easy this pregnancy. In fact, I did not tell anyone I was pregnant until last month, and I hid it till last month, and then … didn’t even purposely really try to hide it, just, ah, my abs were tight, and I could hide it [laughs] – till this month, there was no way …” [video segment ends here]

Sarah seems here not entirely sure what story she wants to tell: Was she hiding the pregnancy? She kind of says yes, then kind of says no, then points to her tight abs.

LN:  I agree. The conflict is there. Her ambivalence has been critical to the story. It’s been the reason she hid the pregnancy, according to her. But it also alludes to not really being sure what her narrative was. Or maybe it was an indication that she didn’t know the story herself until the baby would have been seven months along. Kind of like a child who makes up the story as they go.

BS:  Again, I am not an expert on pregnancy, but it seems to me that a woman with tight abs would show a pregnancy sooner, not later, than other women, because there would be so little fat to camouflage the baby bump. What’s your take on that, Laura? Can tight abs, perhaps, squash a fetus into a smaller size and thus hide it?

LN: First of all, or rather, finally, let’s debunk Mrs. Palin’s tight abs theory. I was so lean and buff when I was pregnant, you could bounce a dime off my ass. I was fit, ten years younger than she was, and it was my first pregnancy. And my belly was showing before 4 months. So abdominal muscles are a moot point. But she has had a good way of deflecting points for 2.5 years. Rhetorical mention of DNA, stretch marks, and tight abs are a method of deflection. They make the interviewer laugh nervously and look away.

BS: And men reporters, especially, I imagine, have been willing to let her play the “mommy parts” card – they have shied away from asking about leaking fluids and breast-feeding, and have avoided confronting Palin about the shape of her body during her purported last pregnancy.

For what it’s worth, Palin’s abs have seemingly gotten tighter over the years. Here is a photo of Sarah (on the right) in what has been widely reported as her first pregnancy:

BS:  So maybe Palin can produce an exercise video for forty-something moms expecting another child who would like to hide their pregnancies until the third trimester. It might be called “Abs of Steel: Is that a Baby in Your Pillow?”

LN:  Thank you again, Prof. Brad Scharlott, photography expert and close follower of this story. I really appreciate your time. Up next, our “resident” neonatologist has some analysis for us that is sure to make some people thump their heads. 

I always wondered what Levi told her. The "tell" is at 1:26.