Trump Administration Jeopardy

Trump Jeopardy Logo

Donald Trump promised to “hire the best people” for his administration, while he would also “drain the swamp.” How’s that working out? Some of his associates are solid and plenty of others are questionable or worse—even at times by Trump’s own admission. Tensions within the White House have already been documented by books like Wolf’s Fire and Fury, Omarosa’s Unhinged and now Bob Woodward’s Fear. To give you the round-up, let’s play Trump Administration Jeopardy.

Family for 400

2595Melania Trump

A two-year, labor-of-love effort is finally ready to launch. Famous Faces Decoded: A Guidebook for Reading Others and its shorter supplement, Decoding Faces: Applications in Your Life, went live as of September 12, 2018. Available via Amazon, Famous Faces Decoded covers seven emotions how they get expressed, what they mean, and top 10 lists of the celebrities who show them most often, including illustrative stories. There’s also a vital epilogue about what people may show if lying. Decoding Faces provides advice on how to best handle situations where these emotions arise on the job or in your personal life.

Trump Administration Jeopardy

Trump Jeopardy Logo

Donald Trump promised to “hire the best people” for his administration, while he would also “drain the swamp.” How’s that working out? Some of his associates are solid and plenty of others are questionable or worse—even at times by Trump’s own admission. Tensions within the White House have already been documented by books like Wolf’s Fire and Fury, Omarosa’s Unhinged and now Bob Woodward’s Fear. To give you the round-up, let’s play Trump Administration Jeopardy.

Donald’s Emotions for 200

2593Trump Disgust.jpg

Dual Front Covers (800).jpg

A two-year, labor-of-love effort is finally ready to launch. Famous Faces Decoded: A Guidebook for Reading Others and its shorter supplement, Decoding Faces: Applications in Your Life, went live as of September 12, 2018. Available via Amazon, Famous Faces Decoded covers seven emotions how they get expressed, what they mean, and top 10 lists of the celebrities who show them most often, including illustrative stories. There’s also a vital epilogue about what people may show if lying. Decoding Faces provides advice on how to best handle situations where these emotions arise on the job or in your personal life.

Trump Administration Jeopardy

Trump Jeopardy Logo

Donald Trump promised to “hire the best people” for his administration, while he would also “drain the swamp.” How’s that working out? Some of his associates are solid and plenty of others are questionable or worse—even at times by Trump’s own admission. Tensions within the White House have already been documented by books like Wolf’s Fire and Fury, Omarosa’s Unhinged and now Bob Woodward’s Fear. To give you the round-up, let’s play Trump Administration Jeopardy.

Cabinet for 300

2605Sessions

Dual Front Covers (800).jpg

A two-year, labor-of-love effort is finally ready to launch. Famous Faces Decoded: A Guidebook for Reading Others and its shorter supplement, Decoding Faces: Applications in Your Life, went live as of September 12, 2018. Available via Amazon, Famous Faces Decoded covers seven emotions how they get expressed, what they mean, and top 10 lists of the celebrities who show them most often, including illustrative stories. There’s also a vital epilogue about what people may show if lying. Decoding Faces provides advice on how to best handle situations where these emotions arise on the job or in your personal life.

Trump Administration Jeopardy

Trump Jeopardy Logo

Donald Trump promised to “hire the best people” for his administration, while he would also “drain the swamp.” How’s that working out? Some of his associates are solid (James Mattis) and plenty of others are questionable or worse—even at times by Trump’s own admission. Tensions within the White House have already been documented by books like Wolf’s Fire and Fury, Omarosa’s Unhinged and now Bob Woodward’s Fear. To give you the round-up, let’s play Trump Administration Jeopardy.

Cabinet for 200

2603Mattis

2603Mattis - Anger

2603Mattis - Sadness & Surprise

A two-year, labor-of-love effort is finally ready to launch. Famous Faces Decoded: A Guidebook for Reading Others and its shorter supplement, Decoding Faces: Applications in Your Life, went live as of September 12, 2018. Available via Amazon, Famous Faces Decoded covers seven emotions how they get expressed, what they mean, and top 10 lists of the celebrities who show them most often, including illustrative stories. There’s also a vital epilogue about what people may show if lying. Decoding Faces provides advice on how to best handle situations where these emotions arise on the job or in your personal life.

Harvey Weinstein: Hollywood’s One-Man Battering Ram

091318-01 Harvey Weinstein

Long before the #MeToo movement justifiably roared into existence, these lyrics caught the essence of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Sung on the 1987 Trio album by Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, they portray a man (any man potentially) who doesn’t hear “no” from his victim. Only his own “yes” matters to him.

It’s hard not to believe that such a man is the media mogul who co-founded Miramax and became a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood over the past 30 years.

More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse. Yet it wasn’t until The New York Times and The New Yorker broke the story in October 2017, leading to first the creation of #MeToo movement and ultimately to Weinstein’s arrest and pending trial in September in New York City, that the mogul’s power in Hollywood finally dissipated.

What kind of man engages in repeated alleged rapes, at least three of them involving bullying or barging into an actress’s hotel room or apartment? You might be tempted to conclude that excessive anger accounts for Weinstein’s alleged behavior. But I’m a professional facial coder, somebody whose expertise is studying facial muscle activity for the emotions it reveals, and that’s not what I see in Weinstein’s case.

For my latest book, “Famous Faces Decoded,” I analyzed the expressive patterns of 173 celebrities (powerful, highly successful people just like Weinstein), 70 percent of them guys. The amount of anger Weinstein shows is greater than what female celebrities show on average, but not higher than what the typical male celebrity reveals. The same is true of contempt, an emotion typically defined as a combination of anger and disgust, which reveals a lack of trust and respect for others.

So what does Weinstein’s face distinctly show compared to those male celebrities I studied? Far more joy, alongside far less sadness and surprise.

Of course, there is no emotional template that reveals who among us might be prone to sexual misconduct. It’s not that easy to predict behavior. That said, what might be emotionally notable about Weinstein?

First, compared to other famous men Weinstein feels only half as much sadness. While sadness is usually thought of as a “negative” emotion, sadness can also play a constructive, positive role in terms of inspiring empathy for others. Furthermore, sadness tends to slow us down and make us reflect on what’s gone wrong (so we don’t repeat past mistakes). In Weinstein’s case, it would seem the mogul doesn’t naturally slow down – nor does he learn from past mistakes. He repeats them, which would help to explain how over 80 women have accused the guy of sexual misconduct.

On a second, related note, Weinstein shows far more joy than his fellow male celebrities. What’s wrong with exhibiting intense happiness? Nothing, except that elation can make you oblivious to details, not all of them minor matters, like the suffering you might be imposing on others.

Finally, there’s another crucial emotional clue that could be derived from Weinstein’s signature facial expressions: his lack of surprise. As an emotion, surprise means you’re looking around (eyes wide open, for instance), noticing the feelings of others you’re with. Compared to other famous men I’ve studied, Weinstein shows almost no surprise at all. Instead of Weinstein’s eyes being wide open, taking in information, his right eye often remains tight and narrow, a sign of somebody suffering from “tunnel vision.”

A lawyer named Lisa Bloom who has consulted for Weinstein describes him as “an old dinosaur learning new ways.” But given the hotel and apartment doors Weinstein has forced his way through over the years, I might favor a different comparison.

How about a battering ram: the heavy beam used to breach fortifications in ancient times? To me, that better describes Weinstein, a man who didn’t create the “casting couch” but who might have been only too happy to enact a more violent version of it while maintaining to this day that he hasn’t ever engaged in any “non-consensual sex.”

Pope Francis Gets Bushwacked Over Sexual Abuse Scandal

So imagine you’re 81 years old, and tired after a tense visit to Ireland to reassure faithful Catholics distressed over sexual misconduct by priests there (and elsewhere). How can your day get that much longer? By having a former Vatican diplomat (Carlo Maria Vigano) issue an 11-page letter accusing you of knowingly failing to take action against a now disgraced American cardinal (Theodore McCarrick). Even worse, the media will have you at close quarters during the flight back to Rome when you attempt some version of a press conference aboard the papal plane.

You’re Pope Francis, and what does your face show?

082818-01 Pope Francis Dual

There’s consternation, for sure. Notice the rise of an inner eyebrow and the eyebrows pinched together, both expressions a sign of surprise and anxiety. Is Francis guilty of participating in a cover-up and therefore nervous? It’s possible, though the timing of Vigano’s letter—as if to stymie any progress the Pope might have made in Ireland—also surely amounts to a sneak attack.

More pronounced is anger. One eye is drawn tight and narrow, a sure sign of anger, and the raised upper lip joins with the eyebrows knitted together in carrying traces of anger. That emotion can range from focused attention (Francis knows he better choose his words carefully in answering Vigano’s allegation) to outrage. Anger involves wanting to move forward and control your circumstances. Vigano’s letter is an attempt to topple Francis, and with him a progressive agenda offensive to Vigano’s fellow conservatives. Power, policy pronouncements and money are all at play here, with contributions to the Church falling as disappointment and dissent mount among parishioners and church officials alike.

Most of all, though, Francis’s face signals disgust and contempt given the wrinkled nose that dominates the left-side photograph and the slight sneer evident in the photo to its right. Something—maybe everything—stinks, a stench the Pontiff’s can really only easily evade by resigning, like his predecessor Benedict XVI did (the first resignation of a Pope in almost 600 years).

Francis took away Vigano’s job as nuncio to the United States two years ago, and now the former diplomat is eager to return the favor. Contempt is about a lack of trust, which is what makes the Pope’s statement aboard the plane so interesting.  “I will not say a single word about this. I believe the statement speaks for itself. And you have the sufficient journalist ability to make your conclusions,” the Pope told the assembled media: “It’s an act of trust.”

Here we are at a moment in the Catholic church’s long history where the Pope is placing more faith in investigative reporters than in many of his own current, and former, top officials. How this will all unfold, nobody knows. But forget the celibacy rule supposedly in place for priests. In this scandal, there aren’t any virgins left to be found.

Unhinged: Omarosa Manigault Newman Takes on Trump

081618-01 Omarosa & Trump

If Turkey’s financial crisis proves to be the “canary in the coal mine” that an economist is warning about, then there might be a bigger story this week than former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman releasing her insider exposé Unhinged. But for sheer personal drama, Newman versus Trump takes the cake. For a decade plus, from The Apprentice to The Celebrity Apprentice to the campaign, and then The White House, she was somebody he reportedly admired for her being conniving—and now she’s a “crazed, crying lowlife” and a “dog” if Trump’s twitter tirade is to be accepted at face value.

081618-02 Omarosa & Trump

Speaking of faces, what does Newman’s show as she makes the media rounds, promoting her book? Yes, there’s often a raised upper lip and narrowed eyes. Newman’s as capable of showing disgust and anger as her former boss, as when she asserts that Trump “doesn’t even know what’s happening in his White House.” Trump as Chief of Staff John Kelly’s puppet is hard to believe. Less hard to believe is Newman’s related claim that Kelly as puppeteer is possible because the president has a severe attention deficit disorder and declining mental health.

081618-03 Omarosa & Trump

It’s not disgust and anger, however, that’s most noteworthy in observing Newman on the air this past week. It’s the fear she shows. Time and again her mouth pulls wide. Maybe the former communications director for the Office of Public Liaison is, ironically enough, simply uneasy appearing on television. But she has manhandled the people interviewing her. So it seems it’s more likely she’s weighing book sales versus legal bills, knowing things will get “ugly” for her now, as Kelly allegedly warned Newman while keeping her confined for up to two hours in the Situation Room at The White House on firing her this past December.

Trump’s a misogynist and racist? Really? What a revelation. But seriously, Newman has recordings to back up her allegations.

081618-04 Omarosa & Trump

When will the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences give a lifetime achievement award to Steven Soderbergh for his prescient movie Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989)? Michael Cohen. Stormy Daniels. Newman. Everyone is recording Trump’s behavior one way or another, knowing that this White House is a House of Mirrors. It’s got to be so stressful working there that naturally I feel sorry for Sarah Huckabee Sanders being reduced to sadness and fear in telling reporters she “can’t guarantee” that Trump has never used the N-word. Well, actually I’m lying, too.

Intelligence Chief Dan Coats Given Shock Treatment

072018-01 Dan Coats Triple

You’ve got to hand it to Donald Trump: there’s nothing like leaving dumbfounded on stage the man supposed to be the country’s Director of National Intelligence. I’m referring of course to the latest twist to the Helsinki summit and its aftermath, insofar as it involves Dan Coats. During a session with Andrea Mitchell at a national security conference in Aspen, Colorado, Coats got the breaking news right along with everyone else in the world that Vladimir Putin is being invited to the White House sometime this fall.

Sure, Coats offered an expression of mock surprise on hearing the White House’s tweet. Maybe that look is what The New York Times, for instance, was referring to when it said Coats “expressed surprise” and “appeared genuinely astonished.” But in non-verbal terms, that was the least of Coats’s actual emotional response to the Twitter announcement.

First, Coats’s mock surprise already contained a hint of more than mere surprise (as noteworthy as surprise is in this case). When a person’s mouth drops open while simultaneously pulling wider, fear is as much a part of the equation as surprise. Coats diplomatically surrendered to laughter and a series of big smiles that began with replying: “Say that again.” But Coats’s first, camouflaging look of mock surprise already contained within it the seeds of Coats’s actual, more enduring and substantive reaction to having Trump invite into the White House the man who metaphorically speaking has been busy burglarizing it.

A playful version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream was, after all, just the start of Coats’s emoting. “Okay. That’s going to be special,” Coats added, his mouth pulled slightly wide in unadorned fear after saying “okay” —though feeling exactly the opposite.

Then Mitchell pressed the point by mentioning that Trump and Putin were alone for over two hours in Helsinki. Coats gulped at that idea, and again his mouth pulled wide in fear. “How do you have any idea what happened in that meeting?” was Mitchell’s follow-up. In replying, “Well, you’re right. I don’t know,” Coats now brought anger into play with a look of eyes flashing wide open (a sign of fear, anger and, yes, surprise). And it was anger that Coats most felt by the end of this particular exchange with Mitchell. “So, um, it is what it is,” the Director of National Intelligence concluded, those conciliatory words offset by the way Coats’s eyes had narrowed and his lips had grown taut.

You could say Coats graduated to anger in recognizing that being so left out of the loop is, in effect, a measure of Trump’s disrespect for, and humiliation of, all or nearly all of the people who work for him in this administration. Coats no doubt resents Trump’s behavior, as much as Trump will surely punish Coats for honesty, independence and patriotism instead of unquestioned loyalty to him.

The bigger picture here is that Trump relishes indulging in surprises that leave much of the universe dumbfounded.  The E.U. is America’s leading “foe,” NATO is “obsolete,” and the press is supposedly the true “enemy of the people.” Putin and his idol, Joseph Stalin, couldn’t say it better. As emotions, surprise and fear are fellow travelers. Many of the facial expressions that reveal surprise also reveal fear, which makes sense because human beings don’t generally welcome surprises. Something new can be threatening, and certainly it is in the case of Trump. What’s next? Who knows—certainly not Coats. Why stop with inviting Putin the arch-burglar into The White House? Forget about the G-7. Why shouldn’t Trump convene a gathering of the world’s greatest dictators instead? Here’s a suggestion: he can dub this new group the D-7 and thereby champion the rise of strongmen everywhere.

The Incredible Trump-Putin Summit in Helsinki

“No matter how cynical I get, I can’t keep up” (with reality), Fran Lebowitz once said, a comment that aptly summarizes the bizarre press conference held following the private, two-hour talk between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Finland. What was bizarre about the summit? For one thing, Putin was actually happy at times and Trump was, too. If Russia had some kind of incriminating video about him, it “would have been out long ago” Trump claimed, all smiles, as if retaining leverage wouldn’t be more helpful to Putin’s cause.

071718-04 Putin & Trump

The cat that swallowed the canary was surely the subtext of Putin’s smile when the two men emerged to begin the press conference. Whatever Putin heard in private must have been pleasing, as was the spectacle of being again a super power sharing the world stage with America’s leader.

Donald was Donald. Have you heard that he won the election after a “brilliant” campaign? Or that there wasn’t any collusion (“I didn’t even know” Putin, Trump said, sarcastically smiling). On this day, Putin had the more interesting body language. Yes, he exhibited the usual smirks – like when Trump insisted the goal of meeting was for the “greater good of all.” Putin’s concern about the humanitarian crisis in Syria was certainly touching. His adroit sense of humor in making what Trump characterized as the “incredible offer” of having Russia itself “interrogate” the 12 men Muller indicted on Friday was likewise a masterpiece of obfuscation delivered with only the slightest of ironic smiles.

071718-03 Putin & Trump

But even the often tight-lipped ex-KGB officer couldn’t manage not to give away his discomfort when the question became:  who did Trump believe regarding alleged Russian interference, the FBI or Putin? Then Russia’s leader pulled back his upper body, rubbed his head, kept his eyes down, and hid his lips with his hand—all in the matter of 25 seconds—in knowing that dishonestly earning trust was the key to the day. Could he get through Trump’s answer that Russia had no plausible motive for interfering in America’s election without betraying fear if caught red-handed or laughter on getting away with it?

071718-02 Putin & Trump

Did Putin want Trump to win the election? Ah, there was motive directly inquired about and for a moment Putin was truthful: “Yes” was the answer, accompanied by wrinkles forming in the middle of Putin’s forehead as his eyebrows lifted in a sign of feelings that include apprehension. Otherwise, it was all pretty smooth sailing. “You can trust no one if you believe” these allegations about Russian hacking, Putin informed us, which is indeed true. Trust no one on that stage in Helsinki. Putin is Putin, and meanwhile Trump has cheated on everyone and everything from his customers, vendors and wives to his country, without even the slightest hint of shame.

How Might Kavanaugh Change the Supreme Court?

Kennedy Gorsuch & Kavanaugh (2)Besides death and taxes, the other surety since the Robert Bork nomination fight is that Supreme Court nominees are unlikely to reveal very much in answering U.S. Senators’ questions during the confirmation process. Insisting that they can’t comment on matters they might have to rule on has become the stock reply. So besides their life stories, their allies, and the various prior cases they’ve ruled on, how else can judicial candidates be evaluated for their likely voting records?

One intriguing possibility is to look at judges’ emotional tendencies. After all, a study by Sam Gosling at the University of Texas concluded that liberals tend to be more emotionally positive and extroverted than more negative and detached conservatives. In my facial coding of various high-court justices, past, present, and perhaps future (Brett Kavanaugh), what emerged?

The chart takes into account two measures: appeal (how positive or negative the justices’ emoting is based on taking into account the “flavor” of smiles, scowls and other negative emoting) and the intensity or strength of their emoting. Somebody given to joyful smiles will emerge as more positive and intense than somebody mostly prone to tepid smiles; and somebody whose scowls aren’t softened by instances of mildly amused smiles will emerge as more negative and intense.

071018-02 Supreme Court Cartesian

What do the facial coding results show? In general, Gosling’s theory has merit but isn’t a slam dunk. For the Supreme Court as constituted before Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, The New York Times reported the following share of votes that were liberal:

  • Ruth Ginsburg (84%)
  • Elena Kagan (83%)
  • Stephen Breyer (81%)
  • Sonia Sotomayor (81%)
  • John Roberts (49%)
  • Anthony Kennedy (46%)
  • Neil Gorsuch (44%)
  • Clarence Thomas (22%)
  • Samuel Alito (16%)

Of the four, current Supreme Court justices with a positive appeal result, their liberal voting records mostly match up well: Sotomayor (81%), Kagan (83%), Roberts (49%) and Ginsberg (84%). In other words, three out of four times, Gosling’s theory seems to have some merit—even if Ginsberg is barely upbeat. Meanwhile, the inverse is true for the conservatives: in three of four cases, those justices land in negative appeal territory. Only Breyer (81%) has a liberal voting record to go along with a slightly negative emotional tilt. Add to the track record the conservative-turned-often-moderate Sandra O’Connor (positive emoting) and the rock-ribbed conservative Antonin Scalia (negative emoting) and Gosling’s theory looks to be on even firmer though not rock-solid ground.

So . . . what to expect of Kavanaugh if confirmed? These results suggest that he might prove to be the less reliably conservative vote that some right-wing Republicans fear. Emotionally, he might be a little less conservative than Gorsuch, who is also the most reserved justice based on his low intensity level. If anything, I might predict that a natural affinity may emerge between an affable Roberts and a mild Kavanaugh, with the Chief Justice finding in Kavanaugh a kindred spirit: a relatively speaking middle-of-the-road, circumspect evaluator of cases on a court dominated by conservatives.