Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Andy Borowitz


WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—President Barack Obama defended his decision on Wednesday to issue a payment of five billion dollars to Mexico to compel that nation to retain custody of Donald J. Trump.

The payment, which will be delivered to the Mexican government in hard American currency by Wednesday afternoon, will insure that Trump will remain in Mexico for the rest of his natural life.

"I have been assured by the government of Mexico that Mr. Trump will be well taken care of and, if he proves to be a productive member of their society, will be provided a pathway to Mexican citizenship," Obama said.

While the transfer of funds to Mexico sparked howls of protest from some Trump supporters, it was hailed by congressional Democrats, as well as by over a hundred Republicans currently running for reëlection, including Arizona Senator John McCain.The President bristled at the suggestion that paying Mexico to keep Trump was "reverse ransom" and an extravagant use of taxpayer money. "There is only one accurate word for this payment: a bargain," he said.


Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association  aid and abet violence.

- An American Story

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Something to Know - 28 August

Steve Breen

There are enough stories and articles in today's news that inspire one to publish them all.   The money that buys the politicians who pass on the laws for corporate special interests (Big Pharma, hedge fund carried interest, etc) are plentiful and need more awareness by our electorate.   Then there is the staggering lack of political astuteness by the general public voters, that is very scary.  However, if I have just one to write about, it is this following contribution from the New Yorker, and it addresses the current tango-two-step by Trump to soften his public perception.   Comparing his latest moves to the corporate rebranding by McDonalds is accurate.  The perception of the product is to be altered, but it is the same old unhealthy bill of fare.   This is fortunate for Hillary Clinton, since she could be put into a glaring spotlight to answer to some of her perceptions, but Trumpy is so over burdened with his own mess that his dancing detracts from any spotlight on her.  The other problem is that McDonalds had a 10-year program for rebranding; Trump has a couple of months, and endless hours of video clips that highlight all of the reasons why he needs to rebrand.  No matter what Trump tries to change, there is an armada of negative sound bytes and video that remind us why he is not fit for the job.

Donald Trump the businessman appears to understand the need for rebranding. Since he reshuffled his campaign team last week, his tone has changed.

 By John Cassidy , AUGUST 26, 2016

Donald Trump, Inc., is badly lagging the competition, losing market share, alarming its financial backers, and being portrayed by its main rival as a toxic product that incites hatred and bigotry. From a business perspective, there is no doubt what is needed: a major rebranding campaign.

Trump the businessman appears to understand this. Since he reshuffled his campaign team last week, his tone has changed. He has given a speech saying he regretted some of his offensive utterances. He has reached out to Hispanic leaders in a meeting in New York. And he has hinted that he is dropping—or at least reworking—his proposal to round up and deport millions of undocumented immigrants.

In the past few days, though, this rebranding process has encountered resistance. Some of Trump's most vocal supporters—among them Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin—have expressed outrage at the suggestion that he might propose allowing some undocumented people to stay in the United States legally. Trump seems to be vacillating.

Talking with Fox News's Bill O'Reilly earlier this week, Trump appeared to be edging toward a deportation policy not much different from the one adopted by the Obama Administration. "What people don't know is that Obama got tremendous numbers of people out of the country," he said. "Lots of people were brought out of the country with the existing laws. Well, I'm going to do the same thing." Then, speaking to CNN on Thursday night, he backtracked, saying that under a Trump Administration all undocumented immigrants would have to leave the country before applying for legal status.

The troubles Trump is encountering would be familiar to many troubled corporations and branding consultants. In many rebrandings, there is a tension between the urgent need to change public perceptions of the company and the danger of alienating existing customers and stakeholders.

A successful rebranding campaign has to have two elements. It must be surprising enough to attract people's attention and make them think again about a company or product. And it must be credible. Back in 2000, British Petroleum, with the help of the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather, launched a new public-relations campaign under the slogan "Beyond Petroleum." The company ballyhooed its investments in clean energy and changed its logo to an environmentally friendly green and yellow sunburst.

This exercise never passed the credibility test. In 2005, a BP-owned refinery in Texas blew up, killing twenty-five people; in 2006, a pipeline owned by BP failed in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude; and, in 2010, the BP-owned Deepwater Horizon rig blew up in the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in a huge oil spill that threatened the entire Gulf Coast. Six years later, BP is still struggling to recover from a huge hit to its finances and reputation.

The "Beyond Petroleum" fiasco proved that you can't deny who you are. Trump is Trump. There isn't much point trying to market him as a kind and cuddly figure: nobody would believe it. But that doesn't mean Trump can't take other steps, such as signalling a willingness to be more flexible and to adapt to changed circumstances. Until very recently, he had been campaigning as if he were still engaged in the G.O.P. primaries, and his divisive rhetoric was alienating many voters, particularly minorities, moderate Republicans, and women—demographics he needs in order to have any chance of defeating Hillary Clinton.

If he's looking for guidance from the corporate world, Trump could do worse than reading up on the recent history of McDonald's. In the early two-thousands, the world's largest fast-food chain was facing big challenges. With consumers becoming more discerning and health-conscious, its business model of selling cheap, fried, artery-clogging fare had come under heavy fire, with critics such as Eric Schlosser, the author of "Fast Food Nation," attacking its products, its cooking methods, and its treatment of its employees. McDonald's sales growth was flagging, and so was its stock price.

The company launched a major rebranding campaign. Adopting the slogan "I'm loving it," McDonald's promoted a healthier line of products, which included salads with low-fat dressing and slices of apple known as Apple Dippers. To some people, the idea of McDonald's selling salads and fruit appeared revolutionary, although, in fact, some of its stores had been offering side salads since the late nineteen-eighties. What was genuinely new was the image McDonald's sought to convey in its ads. Out were the Golden Arches and Quarter Pounders dripping with fat. In their place: slim hipsters sitting in lofts nibbling on lettuce and bits of fruit.

It was all partly a con, of course. As McDonald's broadened its menu choices, it still sold huge amounts of unhealthy fried food. Indeed, under the guise of its Dollar Menu, which it marketed to youngsters and low-income groups, it sold even more of its traditional fare. In 2006, an article in the Times noted that McDonald's turnaround came "not from greater sales of healthy foods but from selling more fast-food basics, like double cheeseburgers and fried chicken sandwiches, from the Dollar Menu." The rebranding effort undoubtedly worked, though. The McDonald's stock price, after falling below thirteen dollars in 2003, rose to more than fifty dollars by 2007. Today, it stands at about a hundred and fifteen dollars.

McDonald's rebranding was effective because it challenged perceptions of the company without undermining its core value proposition: cheapness and convenience. But, in order to succeed, McDonald's had to go beyond offering low-fat dressings and Apple Dippers. Successful rebranding is a long-term process. In the United Kingdom, McDonald's pledged to use real beef in its burgers and organic milk in its shakes. Last year, in response to concerns about the inhumane treatment of battery hens, McDonald's USA announced a ten-year plan to transition to cage-free eggs.

Trump doesn't have ten years, of course: he has just over ten weeks. So what should he do? If his overriding goal is defeating Hillary Clinton, the answer is clear. He doesn't have enough dedicated supporters to carry him to victory. The only option is to change things up in an effort to expand his market share.

Given how central immigration has been to Trump's campaign, announcing a more humane approach toward the undocumented could send a forceful signal that he is willing to compromise, and to reach out to voters who have concerns about him. Would it be entirely credible? Of course not. Many voters will continue to associate Trump with his comments about Mexican murderers and rapists coming to the United States. But Trump isn't trying to win over everybody. If he could boost his support by three or four per cent in the national polls and pick up ground in Florida, it would make the race a lot more competitive.

He'd also need to do some damage control with his base, of course. If he does change tack on deportations, he could also make clear that he still intends to build a wall across the southern border, and to make it much harder for foreigners from other parts of the world, particularly Muslims, to get into the United States. Indeed, he could offer more specifics on these proposals. (That would be Trump's equivalent of the Dollar Menu.)

Would such a stunt work? Given how far Trump has fallen behind in states like Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Washington, probably not. But it may represent his only shot, and a number of his advisers evidently realize this. Kellyanne Conway, the veteran Republican polling expert he brought on as his campaign manager, is reportedly pushing for a U-turn on immigration, and so is Chris Christie.

But a big question mark still hangs over Trump, the same one I raised when he brought Conway and Steve Bannon, the head of Breitbart News, into his campaign. Is he in it to win? Or is his real goal to build up the Trump brand among conservatives and ultra-conservatives, perhaps with the ultimate ambition of launching a media venture?

If Trump's only focus is the White House, he'll go ahead with the rebranding and immigration-policy overhaul, even if it angers the Coulters and Palins of the world. If winning is a secondary concern, it might make more sense to stick with his existing policy and preserve his image as a conservative renegade. At the moment, he appears to want it both ways.


Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association  aid and abet violence.

- An American Story

Friday, August 26, 2016

Andy Borowitz





VIRGINIA (The Borowitz Report)—Calling it a "scary moment" and a "close call," Donald Trump's campaign officials confirmed that they had recaptured Mike Pence after the Indiana governor attempted to flee the campaign bus in the early hours of Friday morning.

According to the campaign, Pence had asked to stop at a McDonald's in rural Virginia so that he could use the bathroom, but aides grew concerned when the governor failed to reappear after twenty minutes.

After determining that Pence had given them the slip, Trump staffers fanned out across the Virginia backcountry, where the governor was believed to have fled.

News that Pence had vanished touched off a panic in Indiana, where residents feared that he might return to resume his political career.

After forty-five minutes of searching, however, campaign officials located a bedraggled and dazed Pence walking along Virginia State Route 287, where the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee was attempting unsuccessfully to hitch a ride.

A confrontation that Trump aides characterized as "tense" ensued, after which a sobbing Pence returned to the bus.

In the aftermath of Pence's disappearance, Hope Hicks, Trump's press secretary, attempted to downplay the severity of the incident. "This is the kind of thing that happens in the course of a long and demanding campaign," she said. "Having said that, we're grateful to have Mike Pence back with us, and we won't let him get away again."

Reportedly, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie offered to fill in for Pence in the event that he became unable to fulfill his duties. That offer was declined.


Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association  aid and abet violence.

- An American Story

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Something to Know - 23 August

Mike Luckovich

The swirl of current campaign blather includes opinions and expressions of doubts about the medical suitability of either Trump or Clinton.   Frankly, to me the best story in the LA Times this morning is about the temperament issue and the ability to be able to launch a nuclear attack by the president with no one to second guess the act. That is a compelling reason to deny Trump.  In the meantime, snack on this good op-ed:

No diagnosis needed for Trump
By Matthew Goldenberg

   BECAUSE OF Donald Trump's unusual public conduct, legions of armchair analysts have wondered aloud about his mental health. A former dean of Harvard Medical School tweeted that Trump "defines" narcissistic personality disorder. New York Times columnist David Brooks has said the GOP nominee "appears haunted by multiple personality disorders." Entrepreneur Mark Cuban was cruder, calling Trump "batshit crazy." Trump's coauthor for "The Art of the Deal," Tony Schwartz, labeled him a "sociopath." Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker found Trump's behavior reminiscent of a brain injury.
   As a psychiatrist, I have frequently encountered questions about Trump's mental status in my daily life. A new neighbor asked me what I thought of him. A medical student wondered, would I diagnose him with a mental illness? On a recent phone call, my mother was more specific: "Is he a narcissist or what?!"
   I'm not supposed to answer that question. To underline that point, the American Psychiatric Assn. issued a statement this month reminding its physician members, myself included, to avoid psychoanalyzing the presidential candidates.
   That ethical standard has been in place for decades. In 1964, thousands of psychiatrists, in response to a magazine survey, openly questioned then-GOP nominee Barry Goldwater's fitness for White House duty. Several psychiatrists offered specific diagnoses. The fact that so many psychiatrists were willing to casually diagnose a person they'd never met embarrassed the profession and led to the codification of the so-called Goldwater Rule — no professional opinions on people we have not personally examined.
   So when folks ask me to speculate about Trump's mental health, I have an easy out — I cite the Goldwater Rule. But increasingly, not engaging in these discussions seems both disingenuous and itself ethically dubious. For one thing, the void left by thoughtful professionals is filled with speculations by commentators, many of whom lack the expertise to appropriately apply diagnostic labels. Moreover, remaining quiet about the election feels like an abdication of moral responsibility.
   Like many Americans, I have been personally appalled by much of Trump's indecorous behavior as a candidate. He comes across as cantankerous, vain, impulsive, demeaning and ill-informed. I understand why people have raised questions about his mental health. It can be tempting to describe his behavior in familiar psychopathological terms. But there are several reasons why we should resist using a psychiatric framework to describe Trump.
   For starters, we don't have access to critical information. I haven't interviewed, diagnosed or treated Trump. I know only his public persona. It's certainly possible that much of what I see in that persona is an act, a representation not of his true self but rather a character he has embodied in order to win votes or enhance his fame or riches.
   Nor am I aware that Trump has been significantly troubled by psychological distress or impaired by any condition (a criterion for the diagnosis of any mental disorder). He is, after all, functioning well enough to be one of two people nominated by a major party to be the next president of the United States.
   Furthermore, casually and pejoratively tossing around psychiatric labels to describe unusual or distasteful behavior is stigmatizing to those who are suffering with mental disorders. Calling Trump, say, a narcissist, does not adequately explain his toxic behavior or exemplify the condition. I know and treat plenty of people with narcissism, and none of them publicly incite violence or malign entire ethnic groups.
   Perhaps the most important reason to skip a psychiatric assessment of Trump is that it just isn't necessary. You don't have to be a psychiatrist to know that there's something seriously wrong with the candidate. The lessons I learned in preschool, kindergarten and elementary school — not in medical school, residency and years of psychiatric practice — are what tell me that Trump is unfit for the job. My core values as an American — not my professional training — are what make me concerned about a Trump presidency.
   Trump should never be president, but not because he may or may not have a mental disorder. He shouldn't be president because he disparages women, denigrates Mexicans and Muslims and mocks the disabled. He shouldn't be president because he demonizes the media and impugns those who challenge him. He shouldn't be president because he insinuates that his rivals might be assassinated and advocates the commission of war crimes. He shouldn't be president because he rejects science and demonstrates a remarkable lack of knowledge or interest when it comes to foreign and domestic policy.
   As a psychiatrist, I don't have a public opinion on Trump. As a citizen, I certainly do.

   MATTHEW GOLDENBERG is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of  Medicine.


Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association  aid and abet violence.

- An American Story

Monday, August 22, 2016

Something to Know - 22 August

Clay Bennett

Prisons for Profit is the disgusting truth about a shameful phase of our system of justice.  I say phase, because it appears that at least on the federal level, it will begin to disappear.   It needs to continue to the state and county level.   As this op-ed from the NY Times points out, there are serious misgivings about the whole concept.  Supporting the concept of Prisons for Profit, is/was a flock of special interests and lobbyists to make sure that laws were written to ensure that there were always enough prisoners (most likely people of color and economically forgotten) to be housed.  Draconian rules for minor infractions, tough and longer sentencing all guaranteed that the corporate business of prisons were going to always be profitable.  AND, while being housed, prisoners were a cheap source of labor to crank out office furniture and the like that states were mandated to buy for their public buildings (administrative offices and schools) - the result being $350 chairs and $750 tables, with the profits going to the businesses run by the Prisons for Profit guys.  It is time to put an end to this as we go about reforming our Justice System:

The Opinion Pages | EDITORIAL

First Step in Shutting Private Prisons


A guard at the Adelanto Detention Facility in Adelanto, Calif., in 2013. CreditJohn Moore/Getty Images

The Justice Department instructed the Bureau of Prisons on Thursday to start phasing out the use of private detention facilities, a watershed step that should be the beginning of the end of an industry that has had an insidious effect on the American justice system.

In a memorandum, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said that the decline in the federal inmate population made it possible to start terminating and winding down contracts with private prisons, which she acknowledged were substandard and less safe than government-run prisons. "They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs and resources," she wrote, adding that they also don't "save substantially on costs."

Private prisons became an important part of America's corrections system starting in the 1980s, as tough sentencing guidelines adopted in response to a sharp rise in drug-fueled violent crime drove up the population of inmates and the cost of housing them. Over the years, a handful of companies made handsome profits from warehousing people as cheaply as possible. The top two private prison companies had $3.3 billion in revenue in 2014, an increase from $1.9 billion in 2006.

While privately run detention facilities were once seen as a fiscally responsible alternative, there's now growing acknowledgment that they are a national shame. They are notoriously violent and dysfunctional, operating even more opaquely than state-run facilities, while paying miserable wages. The Justice Department inspector general reported this month that private prisons had higher rates of assaults and contraband than regular ones.

Immigrants convicted of federal crimes have been disproportionately routed to private detention centers, which run bare-bones operations, under the shortsighted theory that it's futile to invest in rehabilitation or job training for them because most get deported when they serve out their sentence and become someone else's problem.

The American Civil Liberties Union documented the hellish conditions for undocumented immigrants at several for-profit prisons in a 2014 report, "Warehoused and Forgotten." This year, Mother Jones published a disturbing exposé of a prison in Louisiana run by Corrections Corporation of America, one of the large private firms, by a staff writer who gained access to the prison by working as a guard for four months.

In the short run, the Justice Department's decision will affect a relatively small segment of people held in private prisons. Most of the companies' business involves holding prisoners in state custody and those detained for immigration infractions. This development should prompt the Department of Homeland Security, which runs detention operations, as well as state officials, to follow the same path.


Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association  aid and abet violence.

- An American Story

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Something to Know - 20 August

Stuart Carlson

Today's contribution has nothing to do with politics.  However, it is about something that irks most people.  A vast number of those who will receive this today are some of my friends in the airline business, or retirees from same.  It's all about airlines and the way they market their product and make money.   If you are interested as to why the author of this piece makes his bottom line ..."make the product so bad that people will pay extra to avoid it", you just may want to continue reading:





This fall, JetBlue airline finally threw in the towel. For years, the company was among the last holdouts in the face of an industry trend toward smaller seats, higher fees, and other forms of unpleasantness. JetBlue distinguished itself by providing decent, fee-free service for everyone, an approach that seemed to be working: passengers liked the airline, and it made a consistent profit. Wall Street analysts, however, accused JetBlue of being "overly brand-conscious and customer-focussed." In November, the airline, under new management,announced that it would follow United, Delta, and the other major carriers by cramming more seats into economy, shrinking leg room, and charging a range of new fees for things like bags and WiFi.

It seems that the money was just too good to resist. In 2013, the major airlines combined made about $31.5 billion in income from fees, as well as other ancillaries, such as redeeming credit-card points. United pulled in more than $5.7 billion in fees and other ancillary income in 2013, while Delta scored more than $2.5 billion. That's income derived in large part from services, such as baggage carriage, that were once included in ticket prices. Today, as anyone who travels knows well, you can pay fees ranging from forty dollars to three hundred dollars for things like boarding in a "fast lane," sitting in slightly better economy-class seats, bringing along the family dog, or sending an unaccompanied minor on a plane. Loyal fliers, or people willing to pay a giant annual fee, can avoid some of these charges; others are unavoidable.

The fees have proved a boon to the U.S. airlines, which will post a projected twenty-billion-dollar profit in 2014. To be fair, airlines are not just profiting because of fee income. Reduced competition, thanks to mergers, helps. There is also the plummet in the price of oil, which the airlines seem to have collectively agreed is no reason to reduce fares or even remove "fuel surcharges." But for the past decade it is fees that have been the fastest-growing source of income for the main airlines, having increased by twelve hundred per cent since 2007.

If fees are great for airlines, what about for us? Does it make any difference if an airline collects its cash in fees as opposed to through ticket sales? The airlines, and some economists, argue that the rise of the fee model is good for travellers. You only pay for what you want, and you can therefore save money if you, for instance, don't mind sitting in middle seats in the back, waiting in line to board, or bringing your own food. That's why American Airlines calls its fees program "Your Choice" and suggests that it makes the "travel experience even more convenient, cost-effective, flexible and personalized."

But the fee model comes with systematic costs that are not immediately obvious. Here's the thing: in order for fees to work, there needs be something worth paying to avoid. That necessitates, at some level, a strategy that can be described as "calculated misery." Basic service, without fees, must be sufficiently degraded in order to make people want to pay to escape it. And that's where the suffering begins.

The necessity of degrading basic service provides a partial explanation for the fact that, in the past decade, the major airlines have done what they can to make flying basic economy, particularly on longer flights, an intolerable experience. For one thing, as the Wall Street Journal has documented, airlines have crammed more seats into the basic economy section of the airplane, even on long-haul flights. The seats, meanwhile, have gotten smaller—they are narrower and set closer together. Bill McGee, a contributing editor to Consumer Reports who worked in the airline industry for many years, studied seat sizes and summarizedhis findings this way: "The roomiest economy seats you can book on the nation's four largest airlines are narrower than the tightest economy seats offered in the 1990s."

Boarding for non-élite flyers has also become a miserable experience. There arefar more efficient ways to load planes than the current back-to-front method, which is actually slower than random boarding. The process takes longer still thanks to the practice of letting flyers with status board out of turn and thanks to luggage charges, which compel fee-avoiders to cram their bags into overhead compartments. Airlines lack a real incentive to fundamentally improve boarding for everyone—by, for example, investing in methods such as filling both ends of an airplane at once. It would make life better and also defeat the status racket.

Fee models also lead most people to spend unwarranted time and energy calculating, agonizing, and repacking in the hope of avoiding paying more. The various fees make prices hard to compare, as a ticket can now represent just a fraction of the total expense. These are real costs, and they are compounded by ticketing practices, which demand perfect timing. When customers miscalculate their schedules or their plans change, the airline is ready with its punishment: the notorious two-hundred-dollar rebooking and change fee. Those change fees are particularly lucrative: in 2014, Delta and United are projected to collect nearly a billion dollars each. And the greater social cost comes from those who didn't change their tickets even though they wanted to.

The fee model isn't the only reason air travel has become more miserable in recent years. Airlines also benefit directly by throwing more seats into economy, because they have more to sell. But as mergers reduce competition airlines can more safely collude to provide poorer levels of service, and everything that adds to and increases differential experiences drives fee income, which is the most lucrative side of the business. Perhaps that's why Delta's new cabin plan offers five different classes of service, and why one unnamed major airline is reportedly considering introducing a level called "economy minus," with even smaller seats than basic economy.

The various costs described here will not appear on any bottom line but can be easily witnessed in angry families, exhausted flight attendants, and the general sense of defeat emanating from passengers exiting coach. At best, it can be said that more people are able to fly for less; but, as JetBlue demonstrated, there need not be so much misery along the way. Ultimately, the fee models and the distinctions they draw make class inequality, which may be felt less in other places, painfully obvious. The conditions of carriage may lack the importance of other, more pressing social issues. But when an airline like JetBlue is punished for merely trying to treat all of its passengers decently, something isn't right.


Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association  aid and abet violence.

- An American Story

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Andy Borowitz





NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—President Obama is vacationing on Martha's Vineyard when he should be hard at work running isis, Donald Trump charged on Thursday.

In an interview with Fox News, the Republican Presidential nominee said that the President's preference for golfing in favor of the demanding day-to-day work of running a terrorist organization shows "what a disaster he has been" at the helm of the Islamic State.

"Frankly, he doesn't deserve to call himself the founder of isis," Trump told Fox's Sean Hannity. "He is a disgrace."

Trump also drew a sharp contrast between himself and Hillary Clinton, whom he said lacked the mental and physical stamina to run isis.I've built a great business," he said. "I've employed thousands of people. I will do a much better job running isis."


Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association  aid and abet violence.

- An American Story

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Something to Know - 17 August

Signe Wilkinson

The demented sarcasm of Donald Trump, as it is defined in his walking back of what he previously said, is a joke to most of us and the gospel to his base.   However, this is a globalized political show, and his words stick to the perception of those outside of the USA.   The sooner that this clown is ushered out of the Big Top, the better off we will all be:

The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

How Do Trump's Conspiracy Theories Go Over in the Middle East? Dangerously.


Donald J. Trump at a campaign rally in Fairfield, Conn., last Saturday. CreditHilary Swift for The New York Times

In November 2015, a cartoon in Al-Ahram, an Egyptian state-owned newspaper, depicted an Islamic State ogre with "Made in America" emblazoned on his back. It wasn't unusual. A look at Middle Eastern news media shows that this idea is startlingly common. Even prominent officials in the region, from Egypt's former culture minister to a former deputy prime minister of Iraq, have publicly ventured conspiracy theories that Washington created the Islamic State.

Enter Donald J. Trump. Last week, Mr. Trump repeatedly claimed that President Obama is "the founder of ISIS." Even when a sympathetic conservative radio host offered Mr. Trump a chance to backtrack from his ridiculous claim and instead blame the Obama administration's policies for the Islamic State's rise, the Republican candidate doubled down: "No, I meant he's the founder of ISIS. I do." (The next day, Mr. Trump belatedly took to Twitter to plead sarcasm.)

This will most likely fade from the news cycle as Mr. Trump moves on and the next controversy arises. But these misleading words will reverberate far beyond America's shores for years to come, and there will be serious implications for American foreign policy.

Mr. Trump is drawing on a tradition in American politics that tars political opponents as treasonous and un-American. As the historian Richard Hofstadter wrote when describing an earlier flare-up in 1964, "it is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant."

When this homegrown American conspiracy theorizing intersects with its Middle Eastern cousin, the results can be damaging and dangerous to America's standing and interests. In 2012, for instance, former Representative Michele Bachmann, a Republican from Minnesota, told an interviewer, "it appears that there has been a deep penetration in the halls of our United States government by the Muslim Brotherhood." Without offering any credible evidence, Mrs. Bachmann and other House colleagues called for the Justice Department to investigate.

This unfounded allegation found a second life in Egypt, where the government and much of the population came to resent the United States' response to the overthrow of a Muslim Brotherhood president. Egyptian news outlets showed clips of Representative Louie Gohmert, a Republican from Texas, on the House floor alleging United States support for the Muslim Brotherhood to malign the United States as the sinister hidden hand behind Egypt's turmoil. To this day, such accusations damage United States-Egypt relations, providing fuel for the prosecution of Egyptians who have worked with the United States and complicating cooperation on counterterrorism and counter-radicalization.

Of course, no region has a monopoly on conspiracy theories. But their ubiquity in the Middle East is undeniable. Americans who travel frequently to the region know well the dread when confronted by otherwise worldly individuals who question whether the Central Intelligence Agency created Al Qaeda or perpetrated the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Arab world has been primed to receive these conspiracy theories by lying authoritarian governments and, in some cases, American military interventions under flimsy premises. An inability to explain away the revolutions, chaos and civil wars of the last few years — and America's struggle to keep up — have added fresh grist for the region's conspiracy mill.

Public opinion has a profound impact on American interests in the Middle East and around the world. The United States' military strategy against the Islamic State depends on mobilizing local actors to lead the fight on the ground. Imagine how much harder that is when people have been led to believe that President Obama created the group. Or think of the added danger to American troops in Iraq, where Shiite militant groups who are fighting the Islamic State remain deeply wary of the United States military.

Just this weekend, Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, publicly endorsed Mr. Trump's remarks: "This is an American presidential candidate. This was spoken on behalf of the Republican Party. He has data and documents." (Apparently, the "sarcasm" was lost on Mr. Nasrallah, whose group backs the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.)

Everything the United States does in the Middle East — from diplomatic negotiations to humanitarian aid to military and intelligence cooperation — is made more difficult when would-be partners and their publics suspect the worst.

The United States has certainly made mistakes in the Middle East. America's actions, like those of any nation, should be subject to scrutiny and criticism. But honest debate — much like our political debate at home — is poisoned by explosive and misleading claims, whether those claims are merely overheated political rhetoric or spurious accusations.

Not long ago, when America's overseas enemies and critics wanted tomislead their publics to believe that the American government was in cahoots with terrorists like the Islamic State or Al Qaeda, they had to look to the United States' political fringe for confirmation of their own conspiracy theories. Now, thanks to Mr. Trump, America's enemies can simply run the videotape of a major party's nominee for president.

Michael Wahid Hanna is a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and at the Center on Law and Security at N.Y.U.'s School of Law. Daniel Benaim, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, previously served as a Middle East adviser in the Obama administration.


Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association  aid and abet violence.

- An American Story