Monday, March 17, 2014

Crimea, Syria, Egypt

Imagine if instead of presiding over a state that has been more or less unified within its current borders since 3150 BC, and that has a nearly homogeneous ethnicity, common religious practices among its main religious groups and no tangible external threats to its territorial integrity, Egypt's political pinheads instead had to deal with a Sinai peninsula wanting to succeed and become a part of neighboring Israel, or its Coptic Christians decided to take up arms to demand their suppressed rights or Nubians revolted to become part of Sudan.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Kofta Killer

The brilliant minds behind the breakthrough achievement of curing AIDS and Hepatitis C[C] (notwithstanding the devious attempts to steal away the honors), are set to shock the world again with a revolutionary diet pill, dubbed the kofta killer. Promising to induce weight loss of up to 10 kilograms per day through proprietary forms of indigestion, the kofta killer will eliminate Egypt's obesity problems and increase average worker productivity from 27 minutes per day to over half an hour.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Guns, Goals and Happy Meals

Reason #274 for why Egypt is just a tad bit different than everywhere else. Not only are nearly a quarter of the teams in top division of the football league directly affiliated either with the military or the police, but all of them are sponsored by McDonald's.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Egypt Makes No Sense

Emerging markets are on the precipice of calamity, or at least that is what those driving money flows are trying to signal. China is slowing down, Turkey's currency is in a free-fall, Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa, Argentina and virtually every other leading developing country economy is suffering a crisis of some sort. In industrialized economies, the situation looks marginally better, but fears prevail about the pending end to the Federal Reserve's lax monetary policy.

Defying gravity
So what about Egypt, a country that in the past three years has gone through three constitutions, six prime ministers and seemingly endless acts of political violence, where there are shortages of basic commodities and falling exports, where a bloated public sector and unsustainable subsidy system plod along unreformed? No crisis here, at least if you believe the equity markets. The stock market is at an all-time high, flush with cash from friends from the Gulf and beyond whom, for a variety of reasons, remain desperate to prop up the country. Times are so good, and the line of donors so long, that Egypt can afford to return billions of dollars in concessionary loans from out-of-favor parties. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Eenie Meanie Miny Moe

In the stars?
The endless speculation of whether or not he will run is another of the illusions of choice in Egypt. There will be no democratic revolution or even reform of the Egyptian body politic any time soon, irrespective as to whether the Omega Star guides from onstage or backstage.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

An Interview in Fake Egypt

On occasion of the overwhelming approval of the new constitutional “road map” returning Egypt to its real, democratic and modern self, Real Egypt reporter Mohamed Ahmed journeyed to interview Fake Egypt electrician Ahmed Mohamed.

MA: I apologize for the three hour delay in arriving. Traffic in Fake Egypt is horrendous, and I had to triple-park my car on the sidewalk. We never encounter such things in Real Egypt. Well, actually that is not entirely true, we do experience such problems in Real Egypt too. Come to think of it, this street looks quite familiar...we digress, let's get to it.

AM: 3ady.

MA: Tell me about the situation now in Fake Egypt.

AM: Conditions are not the best. It’s hard to find stable work. I have to pay private tutors to educate all of my children, since they learn nothing at school. Garbage rarely is collected on our dusty and overcrowded street. Bread and gas are relatively cheap, but not always available and of highly variable quality. Tap water comes in various different shades. 
Electric shop in Fake Egypt

MA: Sounds pretty bad. Is your government not assisting you?

AM: No, and what little they do ultimately comes after mass protest and under-the-table payments. They do, however, occasionally paint the street curbs.

MA: Did you vote in the latest referendum?

AM: I would prefer not to answer questions about politics, because if I give the wrong answer, I risk being deemed a foreign conspirator.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Brain-shrinking TV

Three minutes on Egyptian television this morning.
Authority on democracy   
  • Minute one: Egyptians leading the world in applying democratic principles.
  • Minute two: Egyptians bravely defeated the imperialist agenda seeking to undermine the great "Arab civilization".
  • Minute three: Americans begging Egypt to accept $1.5 billion in aid funds.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Abu Nazir and the No Vote

Local media outlets report that the infamous Abu Nazir has been spotted at various polling booths in Cairo, threatening to blow up himself and anyone around him should they vote in favor of the proposed text for the Egyptian constitution. Notwithstanding being gunned down by FBI agents in Season 2 of Homeland, CBC quotes high-ranking security sources as having seen Abu Nazir icily stare down women at Maadi voting stations.  As-yet unconfirmed reports from Al Goumhoraya link Abu Nazir with the supply of thousands of bottles of cooking oil and rice being handed out to encourage a "no" vote.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Turkish Delight

Sugar highs
The expulsion from Cairo of the Turkish ambassador has captured the contrived imaginations in Egypt. The story has pushed to the back pages lesser issues such as the ongoing constitutional crisis, butagas shortage and student and worker strikes. Coming on the heels of a pumped up visit of senior Russian leaders, it has been championed as a hearkening back to a mythical era of Egypt pulling its diplomatic "weight".

Phantom projections of Egypt's ever-waning influence abroad long have been a popular ploy of the country's leaders to delude the downtrodden masses. The escapism has not worked to the benefit of Egyptians, often distracting from attention needed to address domestic failings and sometimes used to disastrous effect, as when Nasser started to believe in his own myth.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Asphalt Legacies

The commemoration of the opening the military's new Cairo-Ismailia highway, attended by the First Deputy Prime Minister and his presidential aid, provides occasion to look back to the master of road-building ceremonies and marvel how much "revolutionary" Egypt has changed.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Israel - Egypt's Zionist Ally

Egypt is in President Obama's doghouse. The ill-advised investment made by the Administration in the country's short-lived experiment with "democratic Islamism" has been wiped out by a military coup / populist rebellion (or whatever else one wants to call it). Team Obama has been settling scores by giving Egyptian dignitaries the cold shoulder, and is now cutting back on some of the US-made military toys that the Egyptian armed forces love to parade around. The direct effect of these moves may be negligible, but a strained or worse relationship with the United States would over time expose Egypt to being ever more diminished on the international stage, while hardening the links of its politics, economy and culture to regressive Gulf Arabs. Neither a fickle Obama nor a self-absorbed, xenophobic and inept Egyptian body politic hold out much promise of breaking the ice.  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Che Guevara Meets Mohamed Morsi: The Making of the Legend of the Brotherhood

The One Hand may be succeeding in the zero sum political gamble against the Muslim Brotherood in Egypt; its ham-fisted strategy is not winning over the rest of the world.

It's Hip to be Four in Istanbul

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Little Green Man in Cairo

Informed security sources have spotted an armed, little green man in various gatherings across Cairo. He is reported to have entered Egyptian soil from the Rafah border crossing carrying either an Israeli, U.S., Qatari or Turkish passport, or possibly a combination of all four, and is considered a mortal risk to the integrity of the state and unity of Egyptians. Military and police units have been instructed to use live fire to attack the little green man and any and all whom are suspected of being his supporters.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rehabilitating Egypt's Global Image

Egypt's image in the world has taken a battering. From the fully discredited people-power moment of January 2011, to a rocky experience with an Islamist-dominated democracy to the violent re-imposition of the status quo ex ante, Egypt has been on the headlines for too long and for all the wrong reasons. Virtually any mention of the country these days is in relation to unfavorable comparisons to other banana republics, Orwellian repression, religious pogroms, emptying tourist resorts, fleeing investors, rampant xenophobia and impending civil war. 

The state-sponsored response has been as impotent as it has been furious. A noxious mix of jingoist drivel, tall-tailed conspiracy and preachy paternalism has done nothing to endear. Eager efforts of independent and semi-independent supporters have been similarly ineffective, other than to reinforce the same beliefs among the same circle of believers. English language slogans and simulcasts of shrill Egyptian TV talk shows, frenzied use of social media spreading the views of fringe Western analysts and indignant letters to the closet-terrorist president of the United States, come across as more than a little paranoid. To the extent there has been damage control, most of it has been thanks to an Israeli lobby fretting of a unstable neighbor, rather than any indigenous efforts.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Ralph Peters Echo Chamber

Terrorist lovers
Ralph Peters has become an overnight cult hero in Egypt. An interview of the retired US army officer on Fox News criticizing the Obama Administration's alleged softness toward the Muslim Brotherhood made the rounds over and over and over again among Egypt's self-defined liberals. Never mind that Mr. Peters is but one obscure voice with little or no tangible influence in the United States, nor that he is a commentator on right wing US media with views that might make many Egyptians squirm. The fact that he has presented an opinion consistent with what the Ministry of Truth espouses as truth deems him a knowledgeable expert, as opposed to the ignoramuses in the rest of the world media who are under the Brotherhood's nefarious spell.

CNN is biased for not reporting as fact that 20 million or 33 million (informed sources say it was 77,321,754) Egyptians on June 30 took to the streets protesting against the Muslim Brotherhood and in favor of military rule (clearly, the two must go hand in hand). BBC gives too much face-time to the terrorist barbarians faking their deaths whom a month ago were the country's elected leaders. And, of course, Al Jazeera is simply beyond reproach. Egyptian state media once derided as hopelessly biased is now the benchmark of gravitas, because it hosts serious-looking men who can explain the epic US, European, Israeli, Palestinian, Qatari, Turkish, Iranian, Syrian, Ethiopian, Indonesian, Malaysian conspiracy against the mighty Egyptian military. Talking heads in the "independent" Egyptian media repeat and repackage everything that state media says to further underline the sole and unique truth. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

It's All America's Fault

  • Mama Nagwa retarding an entire generation of Egyptians:  Maybe not America's fault

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Same shit, different day

The powers that be (naturally, that would not include the president, vice president, cabinet, any political parties or, of course, any say from the people) have selected a new roster of governors for Egypt. Military or police rank is the chief (or only) qualifying criteria among the vast majority of the appointees, another clear sign of the country's stunted democratic development. A few braved the prevailing fascist climate to oppose the announcements. Such voices were immediately drowned out by the contemporaneous decision to break-up the Muslim Brotherhood protest camps, creating an overwhelming news story and self-fulfilling justification for the return to the overt militarization of local government.

New governors and little palm trees

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fanila Fantasy - The Case of Omar Effendi

As Egypt's political soap opera lingers on, a recent decision of an economic administrative court carries potentially far more lasting consequences to the lives of ordinary Egyptians. The affirmation of the annulment of the privatization of Omar Effendi -- a heavily indebted, overstaffed and low-quality department store chain sold to a Gulf investor in 2006 -- sends out a troubling signal to the market over the direction of Egyptian economic policy making.

Deeply flawed on procedural and substantive grounds, the Omar Effendi case has became a rallying point for the retrograde revolutionary activists promising a return of the Egyptian economy to its illusory socialist hey-day. The fact the all-powerful rulers allowed for this decision to be rendered is revealing of their control-and-command mentality, the same mentality that set the country so far back for sixty years. A security-first instinct mixing with interventionist populism is unwinding the tepid market-based reforms undertaken in Egypt over the last decade, further setting back the cause of reform.

Egyptians cannot afford more of these delusions, no matter the excuses and no matter how many stop-gap grants the country bribes out of the world. There are no shortcuts to market reforms; the longer Egypt waits, the harder they will be to implement.  

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Another Message from The Hand

In the name of the most merciful who has bestowed upon you the ever-presence of The Hand:

Since we last communicated there have been certain notable developments in the country, so The Hand has deemed it appropriate to provide all you lesser beings with a brief assessment from The Hand's omnipotent vantage point at Minipax:
  1. Mass showings of solidarity in the streets have been suitable, but next time there will be less tolerance for those grumbling of missed beach time.
  2. Undulations to The Hand's greatness need improvement. Still lacking a uniquely catchy tune. Brava to Ghada El Sherif; this is the kind of incisive coverage The Hand is looking for. 
  3. To you die-hard supporters of the deposed, stop being so stubborn. The Hand can and will out-God and out-gun you, but really, what are we fighting for? You know and The Hand knows that the so-called "liberal" wussies have been rendered impotent by their fickleness and fear. Get back to your core competency of controlling culture, knowing, naturally, that the rest is for The Hand, and only The Hand, to handle.
  4. To you Christian people, just a gentle reminder less you get too carried away...
  5. Finally, to you Mr. Obamaاتنيل بنيلة. Of course, that means The Hand is fully committed to a democratic transition, respectful of tolerance and universal human rights, et cetera et cetera. Funding and our strategic partnership will be keenly protected. See you soon at Tysons.