Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Egypt and Ferguson

In addition to involving demonstrators with raised arms facing off against the police, there are numerous other similarities between the situations in Ferguson 2014 and Tahrir 2011...


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

It didn't have to be this way...but it is

Egypt should not be a country where the only substantive political dialogue comes in the form of bloody attacks and mass death sentences. Egypt should not be a country where economic performance is measured by the number of hours when the power is on and months until stockpiles of grain run out. Egypt should not be a country ridden by class, generational and religious divides that have all but eliminated any true sense of living for a greater good. Egypt should not be any of this, but it is.  

It is tempting to wish all of this away, as many energetically tried over the course of the various "revolutions" of the past three and a half years, but the accumulation of over six decades of failure cannot be simply wished away. Flag waving, boisterous songs and hopes for miracle medical devices, however genuine, cannot substitute for nation building. Add to this the many disingenuous, inept and corrupt leaders presiding over a pliable and shallow body politic, and Egypt finds itself in the moribund state that it is in. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Nostalgic Amnesia

The low point must have been reached. Egyptians are getting collectively teary eyed for a soft drink commercial recalling the supposed heydays of the 1980s, complete with Mama Nagwa, Boogi Wa Tam Tam and Shobeir. These are truly desperate times. 

Those weren't the days
Egypt will get better, because it can't get much worse.  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Economic policy كده

Q:  How will you deal will deal with poverty?
A:  I will provide for refrigerated carts to distribute meat at half their current market value.
Q:  But how will that work?
A:  
كده

Q.  OK. How about dealing with the constant power outages?
A.  Everyone will use energy-efficient light bulbs.
Q.  But how will you ensure people actually buy and install these energy-efficient bulbs?
A.  كده

Q.  Right. So what about unemployment and water shortages?
A.  I will solve both at once by increasing by more than 50% the amount of arable land and moving Gouna into some miserable Upper Egyptian province.  
Q.  But haven't these ideas been promised over and over and never happened? How will it happen this time, especially given the constraints that already exist on the Nile?
A.  كده

Ben venunti a Qena

Monday, May 5, 2014

Being There


President "Bobby": Mr. Gardner, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives?
Chance: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.
President "Bobby": In the garden.
Chance: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.
President "Bobby": Spring and summer.
Chance: Yes.
President "Bobby": Then fall and winter.
Chance: Yes.
Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we're upset by the seasons of our economy.
Chance: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!
Benjamin Rand: Hmm!
Chance: Hmm!
President "Bobby": Hm. Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I've heard in a very, very long time. … I admire your good, solid sense. That's precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.

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.

Now

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.