Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Revolutionary Constitution

James Madison...Egyptian style
In all of the endless bickering regarding the proposed new constitution for Egypt, there has been scant detail on how the existing draft can be improved.  Though there have been a few exceptions to the banal debates -- such as the ever-so-intelligent idea of setting specific maximum wages (in contrast to those failed world economies that only have minimum wages established by their legislatures), capping land ownership to five feddans (because the existing 50 feddan limits have been so successful in creating a vibrant agricultural sector) and ensuring universal healthcare that extends not just to the poor, but to all Egyptians (because Egyptians with means really want to have access to pristine state-run hospitals) -- such modest proposals really have not captured the imagination.

Egyptians pride themselves in being unique, and all the more so in a post-January 25 era.  In the interest of jump-starting discussions on a founding document befitting of its people in these exciting times, here are some specific proposals for Egypt's Revolutionary Constitution:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

In Defense of America

"S" is for Salafi!
Of the many idiotic explanations for the mess transpiring these days in Egypt, one of the most incongruous is that this is all America's fault. U.S. policy toward Egypt under Obama has been far from perfect, especially in too eagerly accommodating, and hence legitimizing, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. But to assign all, most or even any significant part the chaos of the last twenty-three months to the United States, amounts to little more than a limp attempt to shift the blame for Egypt's demise since January 25. From the outset, and unfortunately still continuing, the self-proclaimed revolutionary vanguard that triggered the events leading to the present has been lacking in vision, leadership, organization, responsibility, accountability, and credibility, even if being full of energy and passion. The ensuring takeover by the Islamists was as much a victory by default as it was anything else. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

President Smiley

In these trying times, Egypt is in need of a man in whom its desperate and divided populace can place its trust, a man who provides a sense of reassurance and integrity, a man who has his priorities straight, a selfless, modest and non-attention hungry man whose very face restores belief in all that is good. While there may have been one or two teeny doubts of his track record, Egypt's revolutionary vanguard has found its new savior: 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

And in other news...

Heaping praises on El Dictator
While President Obama impressed himself with the link he formed with Morsi to cool the political hot potato of Israel and the Palestinians, the "pragmatically confident" Morsi was busy at that very same time usurping near total power on the domestic front in Egypt.  The contrast between U.S. perceptions of a moderate and democratic Egypt and the realities of a theocratic dictatorship in the making could not be sharper, and the rosey perception is most definitely aiding and abetting the culmination of the crude reality.  

What the President of the United States thinks matters.  It matters because the United States is the world's sole superpower, and it has, does and will continue to dominate in the Middle East generally, and in Egypt specifically.  Unfortunately, this president has managed to convince himself early on that Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood can be accommodating partners, whether because he really believes so, or because he lowered the standard so much as to make the concept of partnership nearly irrelevant, or some of both. Whatever the case, Morsi has taken note of the air cover, and the ground offensive is now in full swing.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Be Careful What You Wish For

Egypt today can seem a depressing place.  Discourse seems to only revolve around price hikes, fuel shortages, tragic train and road accidents, attacks on innocent girls and scary plans by scary-looking people to take the country back to the stone ages.  Anything and everything is cited as yet another piece of damning proof of the incompetence and danger of the Islamists, feeding into a spiraling cycle of depravity that can only be broken by a full fledged coup d'etat by mystical heroic figures who will intervene to save the day. 

The principal proponents of this desperate outlook are very same "progressive" idealists who initiated the overthrowal of Mubarak's rule, and who now look longingly to an era where traffic was apparently less chaotic, where tragic accidents were apparently less horrific, where the educational system was apparently less awful, where people and religions were apparently less uncivil, where Gaza was apparently less incendiary, and on and on and on.  And apparently forgotten and forgiven are the cynical and stifling politics, cultural atrophy, failed war and foreign policy, stagnant economy and mass corruption emblematic of the military state.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Egypt's Disastrous Courts

The current state of Egypt's court system is an unmitigated disaster.  A toxic blend of populism, Islamism, corruption and outright idiocy is steadily chipping away at what little credibility remains in a post-January 2011 Egypt.  Though the Muslim Brotherhood and their Salafi cohorts, as well as the military establishment and its systemic oppression, represent clear and present dangers at the constitutional, presidential, parliamentary and administrative levels, those risks are checked by at least of modicum of transparency and opposition that is entirely lacking with the self-serving, activist judiciary.  

Impossibly wide claims, fabricated evidence and reversals of the burden of proof leave defendants with virtually no chance of success.  In one recent, high-profile decision against a foreign gold mining company, Centamin, an administrative court ordered the cancellation of  a concession (which was once cited as a case study of Egypt's economic successes), because the revenue-share allocation to the state was deemed insufficient.  In proclaiming victory after the decision, the lead prosecutor noted that
[t]he government has pumped about 200,000 litres of diesel each day to help the company's operations over the last 10 years, that alone is worth $800 million.
Golden no more
Even taking the unlikely assumption that the fuel inputs were offered free of consideration, that would implausibly price government procured diesel at over $4 per gallon. Other high-profile decisions have ordered re-nationalizations of publicly-traded companies, voided billion dollar investments stretching over the course of a decade in a cement plant employing 3,000 people, plus taking various actions against property developers based on a repricing of once barren and undeveloped lands at current market, post-development values.  And these are just the headline cases.  Dozens upon dozens of other dossiers are in the dockets, with the overwhelming presumption of guilt driving away precious capital and even more precious brainpower.    

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Morsi's First 10,000 Days

Forever

CAIRO  November 10, 2039 (Associated Bress)  Jubilant crowds greeted President Mohamed Morsi on occasion of his 10,000th day in office as the beloved leader of Egypt.  Beating back chronic fuel shortages, Egyptians of all ages abandoned their cars, coming by foot and climbing up artificial mountains created by accumulated piles of garbage on Sharaa Mohamed Morsi to catch a glimpse of the President.  In a rousing speech, Morsi vowed to rule Egypt until the last beating of his heart and to uphold the democratic aspirations of the country.  
 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Free (Trade) Gaza!

There's a more practical way
The idea of setting up a free trade zone between Gaza and Egypt seems almost too sensible to ever happen in the contorted logic of the Middle East. Development in the Gaza Strip is hampered most immediately by political restrictions, but also from being pegged to the macro economy of Israel, influencing everything from currency valuation to utility, commodity and consumer product prices that are measured against an industrialized market instead of a developing one. Still, Gaza receives hundreds of millions of dollars annually in funds from international donors, and increasingly from Gulf countries, fueling a mini-boom in an area with a well-educated and young population.

Meanwhile, bordering Gaza is northern Sinai, Egypt’s most restless and most neglected region, encumbered by tribalism, a lack of investment and prioritizing of security over economics.  Yet it has massive potential, attributable to its location and the country’s relatively low cost structure. Common sense would suggest the flow of goods and services would adjust for this imbalance, and partly it has, with more than half a billion dollars said to transfer between Egypt and Gaza annually, but only through illegal, underground tunnels

Monday, September 24, 2012

Trojans and Hooters: Morsi's America

The U.S. press are suckers for foreigners that can say something remotely familiar about American culture.  In this case, a flabby interview by the New York Times with Morsi on the occasion of his upcoming trip to New York, offers the following on his insights into America:
He was also eager to reminisce about his taste of American culture as a graduate student at the University of Southern California. “Go, Trojans!” he said, and he remembered learning about the world from Barbara Walters in the morning and Walter Cronkite at night. “And that’s the way it is!” Mr. Morsi said with a smile.
But he also displayed some ambivalence. He effused about his admiration for American work habits, punctuality and time management. But when an interpreter said that Mr. Morsi had “learned a lot” in the United States, he quickly interjected a qualifier in English: “Scientifically!” 
He was troubled by the gangs and street of violence of Los Angeles, he said, and dismayed by the West’s looser sexual mores, mentioning couples living together out of wedlock and what he called “naked restaurants,” like Hooters. 
I don’t admire that,” he said. “But that is the society. They are living their way.”
Morsi's support for a USC team shamed by the NCAA for its serial cheating shows his appreciation of college football is considerably less refined, and less principled, than it is of domestic football in Egypt.  The President of Egypt learning about the world through Barbara Walters also is unsettling. But most troubling is his lack of esteem for Hooters, that beacon of American culture heavily frequented by every man, woman and child in the United States.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Premiership, Bundesliga, UAE Pro League and the Dawry: It's All Relative

You're missing out ya Shika!
Last week, Egyptian football stars abroad put on a pretty good showing, with decisive assists and goals by Shikabala, Zidan, El Mohamady and Ibrahim Salah.  Unfortunately, this was against Ittihad Kalba (Bitch United?), Al-Dharfa, Leeds and FC Amriswil, and not against Parma (against whom Shika would have been playing had he transferred to Napoli), Bayern Munich (had Zidan not thrown away his Bundesliga career to cash in at the tad less competitive UAE Pro League) or Liverpool (had Elmo played to potential with Sunderland in the Premier League).  Ibrahim Saleh's adventure to Basel gets a pass, for now, given it is the beginning of what can be a very promising experience abroad.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Get Egypt Off the Headlines!

There should be a KPI imposed on Egyptian leaders that measures the prominence of press on the country. The mandate should be that less is more. Egypt is in need of normality. It needs to have kids attending properly functioning schools. It needs gas stations that pump gas. It needs water taps through which liquid comes out in the non-orange variety. It needs to have a sustainable trash collection system. It needs manageable urbanization. It needs a football league with a fixed start date. It needs a bureaucracy empowered to issue permits, grant licenses and generally to get things done. It needs public prosecutors and judges who are guardians of the law and not corrupt populists. It needs a constitution that can provide even a modicum of certainty of individual and social protections to all of its citizens.

Less of that...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Christians, Muslims and Soccer in Egypt

It is difficult for the majority of Egypt's Muslim majority, let alone outsiders (including the team Obama pinheads), to understand the depth of discrimination against Christians in Egypt.  The tendency is to only consider the issue when there is a violent outburst, which is quickly explained away as an isolated act by social deviants, a family feud or part of a conspiracy not involving Egyptians.  A more revealing reflection on the true status of the country's religious disharmony is seen in football, the country's national sporting pastime and passion.

Based on an unscientific review of the rosters of the nineteen or twenty teams of Egypt's still-dormant premier league for the 2012-13 season (even knowing the number of teams that will play in the league with an unknown start date is too much to ask for the comically disorganized football federation), there is not a single Egyptian Christian player, coach or trainer. If you stretch back over the past three or four decades, virtually no Copts are to be found (Hany Ramzy being the most notable exception, another the adequate but not super Mohsen Abdel Masih of Ismaily). The same holds true at the junior ranks and throughout the sporting clubs across the country.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mafeesh Fayda

Revolution or not, fans or not, on-time start or not, it's the same old, same old.  Dubious penalty, red card, Ahly wins.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Egyptian Monopoly

Show me the money
Global financial crisis depressing lending and investment opportunities?  Not here.  Whether it is announcements of Qatari grants, or Chinese joint ventures, or U.S. debt relief, or concessionary EU loans, or the IMF begging to offer credit at five times below market rates, everyone wants to get a piece of the action with Egypt's new ruling regime.  It is time to set the rules of the game to be graced with our attention.

Tenders will be generally awarded to the highest bid following a competitive process, the rules of which will not be disclosed and are subject to change at our sole and absolute discretion, but the general idea is to show me the money.  Conditions on funding are acceptable, provided they do not make us look bad in the immediate term.  Any questions on the specific destination of the funds once received will not be answered.

Prices are quoted on a per annum basis.
Let the bidding begin!
  • Peace treaty with Israel:  Boardwalk.  $5 billion  Even if we could never actually cause much military damage, peace of mind comes at a price, and this is what it is.

  • Suez Canal navigation:  Park Place.  $3.5 billion.  It does not rank in first only because there is an immediate own-goal effect if Egypt gets crazy with canal management, as ships take the longer route around Africa.  Somali pirates might become surprising more active, however, should this become a trend.

  • Anti-Iran alliance:  Pennsylvania Avenue.  $1.5 billion, with a red hotel.  Egypt to share 10% of proceeds with Iran to keep everyone fretting.

Community chest
  • Dialogue with the “Islamic world”:  Get out of Jail Free.  $1.0 billion.  Makes pin-headed geo-strategist Obama feel good to reduce the world into false blocks, where touchy-feely dialogue substitutes for actual engagement.

  • Belly-dancers:  Community Chest.  $1.0 billion.  Gulf Arab lust satisfied, while Egyptian culture and traditions trampled upon.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Chelsea - Ahly, Zamalek in Champions League!

El Nino fearing the mighty challenge
It is a fantastic match-up at last for Egyptian football, both Ahly and Zamalek taking on Chelsea in the Champions League!  Lampard, Terry, Torres facing off against Shika and friends at the historic Stamford Bridge.  Awesome!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Egypt Will Be

Only in Egypt
The hovering helicopter at the military-civilian “handover” ceremony displaying a massive Egyptian flag was a poignant symbol of the charade of the “revolutionary” events in Egypt over the past 18 months. The faded, heavily ripped and unevenly positioned flag fluttered over a high command trying to look serious while squinting through the desert sun. The handover event, which commenced suitably late, was staged on a cleanly paved flat of asphalt with fancy white lines in the middle of absolutely nowhere (Camp Huckstep (aka Hikstep, Hike-Step), a World War II era detention camp, cum prison for Islamists, cum staging ground for the "big day").  It was as convincing in projecting order as a decorative traffic light on a Cairo street. First, a rambling speech about the grand achievements of the “transition” period was supported by an amateur, and nearly totally irrelevant montage on Egyptian television that looked to have been pieced together by a failing first year media studies student, or possibly someone trying to create a Pink Floydian video to capture the surreal moment. Next, the supreme commander of the armed forces (who somehow remains the supreme commander notwithstanding transferring authority) went through another long-winded speech about the military’s great achievements. Then poor Morsi took the stage, doing his best to seem relevant, while the blank faces of the attending big wigs stared indifferently into the distance. Only Ganzo’s disgusted and impatient face seemed to exhibit any real feeling.

Hmmm
The event came after a series of similarly half-assed swearing in ceremonies, one before the ostentatious, faux-Pharaonic constitutional court (with the high court judges resplendent in newly tailored robes with colors and bows that did not quite look credible, but almost came across as serious), the other an Obama-inspired moment at Cairo University, where final exams were summarily delayed and the establishment crowd tried to look adult-like on cushy seats, as Morsi went through another monotonous, carefully censored monologue that said nothing offensive. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Napoli Rumor Heats Up!!!

Dai Shika!  Dai Napoli!

FilGoal | اخبار |الزمالك يوافق على إعارة شيكابالا لنابولي مقابل 13,5 مليون جنيه

The Revolution Continues - the Pending Collapse of Ahly

ESL
No doubt seeing the writing on the wall, the face of Ahly's corrupted regime has departed the team (intriguingly, he claims to be negotiating with Zamalek to join the ranks of Morsi's men).  The dirty games that have allowed Ahly to constantly tip the scales on and off the field must now be put under the spotlight and corrected for Egypt to progress as a more civilized and hopeful country.

No more bloated budgets supported by fake and incestuous sponsorship bids. No more bottomless pockets to buy off all local talent, instead of developing players as do all other teams.  No more lackeys stuffed into the football federation.  No more tilted playing fields with bought-off refereeing to repeatedly secure a penalty in the 94th minute, "creatively" interpret the offside rule, randomly hand out red cards, cancel games and otherwise doctor the results.  No more.


 
                                                   Game over

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Shika to Napoli

The rumour has been around for a couple of years about the transfer of Egypt’s biggest talent for generations, Shikabala, to SSC Napoli, only to be dismissed as una bufala totale. The story has resurfaced of late, however, bringing back the hope of watching Shika dance around defenders at Stadio San Paolo.

As hard as it will be for Zamalek – the club of il fan wal handasa, and the only team outside of Europe or Latin America that can inspire the creativity of a Shikabala – to lose this genius, the pathetic state of affairs of Egyptian football (get ready for A.C. Brotherhood) and Egypt more generally, make it unforgivable to have these skills atrophy any longer. Shikabala is 26 years old, at the late end of his career prime. He will be out of contract at the end of the month, and whether or not Zamalek is able to first sign him to earn higher transfer fees, it is time to let this eagle fly. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

It was bound to happen...

The writing was on the wall for the phantom revolution from the outset. As inevitable as the events leading up to January 25 might have been, the outcome of the ensuing chaos was even more so. There was never a scenario of governance provided by the self-proclaimed revolutionaries that was even remotely plausible, and the powers-that-be knew so. Hysterical chants and mass gatherings calling for perpetual "revolution" do not buy credibility with most people, let alone a conservative, security-minded leadership. The "revolutionaries" never really developed the will or the capacity to engage with this leadership on a basis that the leadership would respond to, instead either wishing it away through mythological notions of “one hand,” or confronting it head-on in a pyrrhic struggle. The "revolutionaries" also never really connected with the masses, instead cocooning themselves in a Marxist wonderland that was convincing to no one other than themselves.   

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Curse of Being Egyptian

Logo with three stripes and an elephant

This afternoon, four-time World Cup champions Italy take on the reigning World Cup champion Spain.  Iniesta, Balotelli, Xavi, Casillas, Buffon, Fabregas, De Rossi, Ramos, Cassano,  and on and on.  It is world football at its best.  Why oh why then will our poor souls instead be pulled to Conakry to suffer through the tedium of watching the Egyptian national team take on Guinea's Syli Nationale?  What is it about us that causes this morbid attachment?  What have we done to deserve this fate?

Logo with three stripes and four World Cup stars

Friday, June 8, 2012

The New York Times Sucks

Not always fit to print
It is not really notable to point out that the editorial board of the New York Times has strong biases that influence not only its opinion pieces, but also its allegedly neutral news department.  This is self-evident when it comes to almost anything they cover on the U.S. domestic front, whether political, economic or social.  Less noticed, at least to a wide spectrum of disinterested Americans, is the bias of the New York Times on foreign policy coverage, which unfortunately is of disproportionate influence to the ignoramuses in government in Washington, whose interaction with the world is limited by language, culture, experience and basic intellect.

When it has come to the arrival of the "Arab Spring" in Egypt, the New York Times from the outset decided to portray the happenings as a revolution a la 1776, 1789 and Eastern Europe circa. 1989, conveniently overlooking the near complete absence of evidence of this being true.  Facebook and Twitter messages from a handful of self-declared, English speaking "activists" became the barometer for the emotions of 85 million Egyptians.  Islamist retrogrades were recast as enlightened and free-thinking.  Unionist failures have been somehow elevated as vanguards of the Left against "the Establishment."

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Dump

There is a view of Cairo late at night that reminds of the foothills south of San Francisco.  Driving on the Autostrade, just after passing the monstrosity of military-inspired apartment blocks and before hitting the grand Citadel of Mohamed Ali, white lights twinkle through the mist on a hill to the left.  Then one continues on, and the image passes away into the smog of decrepit vehicles, illegal mud-brick factories and burning garbage.  During the day, even this passing mirage of beauty is impossible to reconstruct, as the twinkling lights are nowhere to be seen in the squalor of half-constructed blocks, lethal boulders and pools of raw sewage in one of the city's most drug-infested and chaotic neighborhoods.  The view across the road that used to help erase this desperate site, of the beautiful minarets of Islamic Cairo and still-alive City of the Dead, is now gone, blocked by a monotonous, crooked and permanently exhaust-polluted brick wall that some municipal idiot must have thought helps the area appear more civilized.    
Made for TV

The iconic nighttime image of Tahrir Square, and what it is alleged to represent, is similarly illusive.  From a distance, the mass of people, rhythmic chants, waving flags and high-sounded proclamations of freedom looks so very inspiring.  Closer in, the reality of the dirt, smell, loud mouths and thuggish power grabs is much uglier.
  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mubarak, Bread and Life

Gift of the Nile
In other news on this fateful day in modern Egyptian political history, a policy breakdown with a much more immediate impact is eating into the most essential part of life for the vast majority of Egyptians:  getting bread on the table.  Stemming from an ill-conceived control and command system fancifully designed to make Egypt self sufficient in wheat production, inflated prices offered for local wheat production are creating a cash machine for traders re-labeling foreign grown wheat as Egyptian. As consequence, the state treasury is wasting billions of scare dollars on procurements to support a hopelessly designed food subsidy system, further billions to support a hopelessly designed fuel subsidy system to run the plows and pump scarcely available water on limited arable lands, and millions and millions more on a vast bureaucracy to enforce this madness.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The "Revolution" is Dead...Long Live the Revolution

Another election, another loss.  From the constitutional referendum to the parliamentary elections to the presidential vote, Egyptians have decisively rejected the "revolutionary forces".  And, yet again, the same "revolutionary forces" have had the same delusional reaction, consoling themselves in wild tales of conspiracy, contorted mathematical breakdowns trying to recast defeat as victory, and basically anything else that puts the blame somewhere other than on themselves.  They again have failed to find a leader capable of presenting a credible vision for the future, their best offering apparently being an unrepentant believer in the same Nasser who founded the security monstrosity, bureaucratic labyrinth and cultural regression that for sixty years has dragged down the country internally, while gloriously leading Egypt into devastating war after devastating war, with Israel and Arab "brothers" alike.  And now they threaten to commit mass suicide by suspending all credibility in backing an unabashed Islamist (not that the backing covert Islamists really was any better) as the last salvation for the "revolution."  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Presidential Delusion

Presiding over a mess
In the sham otherwise known as democratic advancement in Egypt – where a dyed-and-stained Islamist can mascaraed as being open-minded, where a failed politician can implausibly revive a discredited Nasserist system as the hope for the future, where a union thug can promise mass expropriation as the golden bucket at the end of the rainbow, and where self-declared revolutionaries can willingly suspend belief to find credible that plastic ballot boxes, pie charts and moronic talk shows even remotely reflect a civilized system of self-governance – it is reassuring, even if only somewhat, to recall that the bankrupt Egypt of today, with all of its pitfalls, ignorance and depravity, is still somehow linked to 7,000 years of stabilizing norms.  

Friday, May 11, 2012

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

The tepid televised debate between two drab presidential candidates is a poignant symbol of the superficiality of the events that have transpired in Egypt over the course of the past 18 or so months.  Egypt's pompous political class -- from the candidates to the idiotic talking heads -- is utterly shambolic.    

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Solution to Democratic Chaos in Egypt

Move over Justin Bieber...
For starters, raise the voting age and ban girls from voting (it must be the manly appeal of the beard).  While we are at it, may as well ban boys from voting too, and outlaw those with brown hair and/or brown eyes, in addition of course to banning the entirely unreliable black, red or blond haired and/or blue, green or hazel eyed voters. Needless to say, the same rules shall apply to eligibility for candidacy, supplementing the well-reasoned rules for those with any non-Egyptian familial ties (no more experimentation with failures like Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, Mohamed Ali or Taha Hussein).

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Strawberry Fields Forever


Perish the thought
Hold the farawla bil ishta.  The highly qualified agricultural experts of Tahrir have identified the root cause of Egypt's food problems.  The cause is not the 85 million inhabitants haphazardly living along the narrow Nile valley, the country's finite water resources, nor the distortive control and command policies that have dictated how, when, where and at what price farmers can grow and sell crops.  The cause is strawberries.

Capitalist-flavored shisha
Never mind that strawberries grow on approximately 0.00175% of Egypt's cultivated land. Never mind that the Egyptian strawberry industry is underpinned by a natural competitive advantage attributable to the country's warmth and location, which enables the delicious red berries to hit the domestic and European markets before surrounding producers can do so. Never mind Egypt is one of the top strawberry producers in the world, with products successfully marketed as far away as China. And never mind that the staple cereals that the revolutionary "experts" would like to have replace the strawberries are much more cheaply imported into Egypt, rather than seeking to re-produce the rolling plains of the American Midwest or East Asian rice paddies in a cramped river delta surrounded by an endless expanse of desert.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Left Behind: Egypt's Hopeless Socialists

The self-appointed leftist guardians of the Egyptian “revolution” are as naïve as they are intellectually bankrupt. Their vast overestimation of their evidently limited appeal, combined with their patently inadequate political capabilities, have allowed for Islamists to manhandle the social and political scene.

Tired defenses of adverse domestic and foreign agendas are made even more redundant when the Left tries to conjure up an excuse for an economic agenda. They resist acceptance of IMF loans at a fraction of the rate of domestic borrowings, while campaigning to “drop Egypt’s debt” (note to the uniformed – Egypt already has benefitted from unmatched and massive rounds of debt relief from supposedly evil Western creditors, negotiated under the watch of Egypt’s supposedly debt-crazed past governments). They now oppose the prospect of a free trade agreement with the European Union, Egypt’s largest export market, because “local shoemakers and cobblers will be out of jobs, which will set back the economy far more than the few cents consumers save buying the foreign made shoes.”

Charm City


Baltimore, Maryland:  eclectic, electric America.

The land of Poe.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Surprise, Surprise: Obama's US without Friends

Blowing it
After blindly championing a policy of trying to look popular and ignoring the consequences of undercutting a leadership nurtured over decades, and then pursuing a hopelessly flawed accommodation with regressive Islamists, the U.S. Government finds itself desperate to find friends in Egypt.  With the years of dominant U.S. military, political and economic presence, this is nothing short of outrageous.

So what does Team Obama do next?  It carries on with its amateurish attitude of getting into highly publicized tiffs with junior ministers over peripheral issues, and acts with a chip on its shoulder through a self-defeating policy of turning international financial institutions against Egypt.   

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Young Africans v Zamalek - Football (and Normality?) Returns at Last!

Egypt for too long has been in in a state of fear, mourning and pessimism.  The causes of this are numerous, ranging from the depressed economy to inflated revolutionary expectations to ominous signs of further curtailments of already meager individual rights to the worrisome stream of criminal activity.  There are some -- both of the "revolutionary" and "counter-revolutionary" variety -- who see value in chaos, instability and a general lack of normalcy.  For the rest of us, however, we want to live our lives, and life for the tens of millions of us means having our football back.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Zambia Wins! Inspiration from Humility

  
David overcometh Goliath
Against all the odds, Zambia pulled it off.  In the very country where their entire national team was killed in an airplane tragedy nineteen years ago, this undersized squad of no-names with a funky Chipolopolo moniker overcame one favored adversary after the next, culminating in the triumph over the most star-studded sides of them all, the annoyingly francophone Côte d'Ivoire.  The storyline is awesome and inspiring in its goodness, and reinforces belief in the power of sport in general, and its most beautiful game in particular. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Islamic Patriot Bonds: Another Band-Aid Solution

The Pound is sinking
After maxing out on internal borrowings that are crowding out domestic lending capacity and issuing sovereign bonds at junk rate yields, the economic brain-trust has come up with another novel solution:  trying to sucker Egyptians living abroad into lending them money at below market rates.  While appealing to patriotism and religion (they will be “Islamic” bonds; i.e., effectively exactly the same as non-Islamic bonds, only the interest coupons are instead deemed as rental payments), the missing feature is the fact that Egyptians – whether within Egypt or residing abroad – are not suckers.  They, like any other investors, will conduct due diligence and invest where returns are in line with what the market dictates.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Jellyfish of Port Said

The events that unfolded at the Masry-Ahly match were tragic and depressing, even if unfortunately not totally surprising. The subsequent reaction has been outrageous. Keep politics out of sports. Revolutions, counter-revolutions, phantom revolutions or whatever the hell else they are, they do not belong in or around a game that brings passion and pleasure to tens of millions of Egyptians who simply want to support their team for 90 minutes and forget about their daily struggles. Your battles can be fought in parliament, esoteric constitutional debates, talk shows, tweets, street demonstrations or wherever else. Leave the rest of us alone.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Small-Minded Defeatism of Washington

It is understandable, if not terribly illuminating, to see some uninformed, unorthodox and outright silly analysis of a normally relatively sedate topic, once the matter becomes publicized at the highest level by this highly politicized White House.  As such, much of the wacky views about what to do with Egypt -- ranging from tying the country to a global jihad to sugar-coating clearly anti-modern Islamists as Jeffersonian democrats -- can be dismissed as part of the expected Beltway reaction. 

What is far less acceptable, however, is when leading experts of Egypt policy in Washington can offer so little in terms of a constructive approach for putting Egypt on a modernist path of reform in this time of transformation.  The central assumption of the CSIS's Egypt in Transition:  Insights and Options for U.S. Policy is that the United States has a very limited role in Egypt and, as such, can basically not do much apart from watching on the sidelines and occasionally making a point here or there.  The assumption is inaccurate and leads to a dangerous conclusion of inaction.