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.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

So Long to Flower Power

The time that never was
Egypt's sixties moment is over. In yet another sign of how it all went so wrong, the same "revolutionary" minions who recklessly promised the moon to Egyptians back in those heady days of Tahrir circa January 2011, are now whole-heartedly supporting the strike back of the empire in its most unfettered and vicious form. Insipid war songs, feigning praises for the military command, over-hyped nationalism and even more over-charged xenophobia not only are now commonplace, but are encouraged by the headless "political forces" and their phantom liberal backers. Egyptians have been misled into incongruously subscribing to a belief of having their interests aligned with self-interested generals, then pinning hopes on dyed-and-stained Islamist retrogrades, then back again, all the while desperately seeking for anything other than total chaos. Whether this ends in a full-fledged military takeover or not is beside the point -- Egypt already is a military state. And sadly, this may not be the worst option any longer for a country where religious tyrants have been let loose, yes moderated by short-term opportunism, but always wedded to a fundamentally anti-modern set of ideals.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ahly, Zamalek, Boredom

A faintly familiar game played in Gouna
Unsatisfied with domineering political life, centralizing the economy and  straight jacketing religious and social norms, the vampires have sunk their teeth deeper into one of the last bastions of free expression in Egypt, the rivalry between Zamalek and Ahly. The African Champions League match-up between the two (no local competition face offs being any longer possible, thanks to the idiotic decision to cancel the league and cup) was played in circumstances that can be charitably described as intentionally horrendous. Unpaid players who have not faced a competitive match in months were commandeered to run around in broiling temperatures at a wind swept field on the Red Sea in the middle of the fasting month of Ramadan. 

The game itself was a predictably terrible stalemate, lacking in every facet. The only people leaving happy were the authorities congratulating themselves for the wondrous achievement of staging a football match for ninety minutes, complete with twenty-two players in neat uniforms and even some fans with waving flags who braved the uncertainty of whether they would be allowed to attend.

Another victory for dulling unity, another loss for Egypt. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Egypt's Unfantastic Economic Policy

Dr. Doom looms
Based on early indications, the vision of the economic "Fantastic Four" in Egypt's new cabinet is no better than that of predecessor governments. Their priorities lie squarely on finding scotch-taped solutions to an economy that instead requires radical structural change

Subsidizing bread instead of flour (inviting further state intrusions), centralized targeting of commodity levels (might work in the military, does not work in a market economy), seeking out billions in aid and concessionary loans to finance an unsustainable and distorted fuel market (which will not be made any more sustainable by cracking down on smuggling), setting a national minimum wage (which won't be enforced and anyway fails to address chronic unemployment and underemployment) and promising to support domestic industry by simply providing better physical security (as opposed to a streamlined bureaucracy, functioning infrastructure and non-corrupted legal and business environment), will not cut it. The politicized decision to put the IMF loan package on the back burner furthers the sense that this government has no real economic agenda

Merely not being the Muslim Brotherhood is not an economic policy. Fantastic and revolutionary this is not.  

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Coptic Quota

Symbolic harmony
New cabinet announced. All-important Ministers of Environment and Scientific Research again Copts (plus consolation prize of the weakest of the economic ministries). 

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Message from The Hand

In the name of the most merciful whatever you happen to believe in, provided, in primus, such belief neither conflicts with nor otherwise diminishes the superiority of The Hand:

We hail your perseverance in crushing the vast conspiracy of the American-Zionist enemy against our great nation. We hail the return of the "real Egypt" to which we devote ourselves; the Egypt of staged democratic stability, privileged economic dynamism and comfortably hypocritical cultural conformity; the Egypt where The Hand always is slapping on your golden faces.

To the disappointed believers of the fascist regime of the past, in the spirit of togetherness and forgiveness The Hand offers you the unfettered ability to spread your religious bigotry, without, of course, upsetting the "civic nature" of the loving state. To our once excited, then frightened, and now again excited "revolutionaries", we hereby promise to maintain the veneer of independent media and to keep open at all times at least one of Tamerai and La Bodega, so as to provide you with the calming illusion of living in a progressive country, subject only to occasional closures or threats of closure to remind of the superiority of The Hand. To our Christian brothers and sisters, The Hand offers you a happy life wherein your existence will be tolerated, with only the minor inconveniences that will necessarily arise from time to time to underline the presence of The Hand. And to the rest of the blessed proles of this wonderful land, The Hand offers you the privilege of subsistence amounts of water, electricity, diesel and bread, with the gentle reminder that such privileges can and will be revoked when and where The Hand, in its eternal wisdom, deems necessary.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Now what to do with Egypt?

No love
After seeing one of its purported headline foreign policy achievements implode and instead become a lightening rod for criticisms that go far and wide (very far, and very wide in the case of conspiracy-loving Egyptians), the Administration may be tempted to simply give up on Egypt. That temptation must be resisted. The United States has massive influence in, and must stay engaged with, Egypt. In doing so, it should be guided by a few insurmountable principles that are too often overlooked:

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Obama's Egypt Disaster

Strained alliance
The Obama Administration did not cause the mess in Egypt over the past two and a half years, but it has nonetheless made a mess out of U.S. policy in the country. Born out of an ill-considered gamble on populist foreign policy, followed by a fateful approach to retrograde Islamists, then ultimately damned by an unimaginativetepid and defeatist positioning of American influence in the region, the Administration has failed miserably. While U.S. perseverance may have helped Egypt's hopelessly inept leaders avoid a total train-wreck, Obama never should have supported the "revolution" (speaking of coups...) against Mubarak in the first instance, and never should have aligned the United States with political Islam. Once the Administration did do these things, however, it managed to make matters insurmountably worse by not using U.S. influence to drive the fundamental change that Egypt desperately needs to its body politic, economy and society at large.  


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Egyptian Monopoly Continued

With Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and others lined up to flood a post-Brotherhood Egypt with billions of dollars (that will never be repaid), substituting for the billions of Brotherhood-era dollars from Qatar, Turkey and Libya (that will never be repaid), plus the billions of U.S., European and international funds that continue to roll in whomever is in power (that too will never be repaid), perhaps Egypt is on to something. Every couple of years scare the world shitless with mass mayhem, then sit back and add up the mula. 

Revolutionary Pounds

Monday, July 1, 2013

Egypt in a Global Perspective

The world's view of Egypt according to Egyptians:
  • "Tens of millions of peaceful citizens on streets bravely championing a democratic revolution over scary bearded people" 
  • "White House, European Commission, Qatar scheming 23 hours per day on grand strategies in Egypt; all other foreign and domestic policy issues deemed irrelevant"
  • "Every man, woman and child over the age of three passionately following latest conspiracy intrigue offered by Tawfiq Okasha"
And in other news, tragic death of firefighters in historic heat in Arizona, revelations of mass wiretapping continue, commodity prices in state of collapse, Brazil crush Spain in World Cup warm up, Mika to judge Italian version of X-Factor 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Red Card: Zamalek is too big for you

Off you go
It started off as a bad joke back in 2011 when the Muslim Brotherhood suggested it would field a sporting club to bring its pious practices to national sporting competition. Apparently, they were not kidding, but instead of taking on Zamalek and Ahly, they have decided to simply take them over. The bearded ones have announced that they will contest in Zamalek's upcoming board elections, risking putting Egypt's greatest club at the mercy of political zealots. 

Morsi and company have tested the country's patience with a year's worth of utter incompetence, with everything from polarizing politics and yo-yo economic declarations to televising live their spy fiction diplomacy, making stone age cultural pronouncements and appointing terrorists as governors in the country's key tourist zones. They have managed to float by thanks to an equally, if not even more, incompetent opposition, which has conspired with the Brotherhood to destroy any semblance of a functioning state. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Sewage Canal

As Egypt frets that Ethiopian hydroelectric designs may force a rethink of its asinine aspirations to flood infertile sands to grow rice and wheat to replace asphalted-over Nile river plains (and impinge upon time-honored traditions such as aimlessly watering the street), attention has shifted away from development plans for the country's other strategic waterway, the Suez Canal. The Suez Canal Corridor Project seeks to promote public-private partnerships to develop the areas adjacent to the 160 kilometer long canal. With the exception of the harbors, liquefied natural gas container facilities and some light industry in Soukna and East Port Said, the canal area is sparsely developed. Utilizing a strategic location, which is the main trading conduit between Asia and Europe and through which $1.6 trillion in global goods flow annually, for more than collecting a relatively meager $5 billion in annual tolls would seem uncontroversial. Not so in Egypt.
Wasted gifts

Setting aside the mundane reject-at-all-costs arguments to anything and everything proposed by the government, the most substantive criticism has centered on long term land leases that would be granted to private investors. The opposition has offered nothing in terms of economic alternatives to how Egypt can develop the Suez Canal area -- or anywhere else in the country, for that matter -- without private investment, for which certainty of property rights is a must. Instead, sewer-politics has dominated, with stump speeches recklessly appealing to the country's toxic mix of xenophobic paranoia and delusive socialist dreams. 

Neatly summing up the opposition's incapacity on both the Nile and Suez Canal, one of its leading lights, hot-heated Hamdin Sabahi, has a be-damned proposal to block passage along the Suez Canal to all countries with contractors working on the Ethiopia project.  This would ensure that Egypt becomes an international pariah, and a poorer and drier one at that. Meanwhile, Morsi and his brethren have decided to shift focus entirely and sow the seeds of inter-religious strife in Syria, a conflict in which Egypt has no business in, let alone capacity for, injecting itself.  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wheat Dreams

Food security
The topic of the day raging among the talking pinheads in Egypt is the total output of this year's domestic wheat crop. The nine o-clock news on state television started off with a full twenty minute segment on the issue. A smiling president stood in the midst of waving wheat fields confidently forecasting self-sufficiency. Predictably, the pro-Morsi crowd is pointing to optimistic measurements of record output, whereas the Morsi detractors claim the numbers are exaggerated and hearken to even more fantastic production levels that could be reached but for presidential mismanagement.  Both sides are missing the point: Egypt should not be targeting self-sufficiency in cereals.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

You can't take Egypt out of the Egyptian

Egypt appears a changing place. Beards are growing bushier, head coverings are becoming longer, language is becoming more Arabized, politics are becoming more politicized. There is a niggling sense of uncertainty that unsettles many, if not most, of an ever-stressed population that is tested on everything from their religious beliefs to crossing the street.  Many -- far too many -- have been driven out of the country altogether, whether out of economic desperation, a random judicial system or otherwise.

But through it all, Egyptians have been, are, and will remain, Egyptians. No matter how large the standard zebiba, or stern the airport official or shrill the street demonstration, Egypt will get through it, because Egypt is embedded deep into the hearts, minds and souls of Egyptians anywhere and everywhere. Rational or irrational, it an unshakable truism underpinning Egyptian society. 

You can take the Egyptian out of Egypt, but you can never take Egypt out of the Egyptian. 


Monday, April 8, 2013

Intolerable Religion in Egypt

It's pretty pathetic when Russia, a country steeped in a modern history seeking the obliteration of religion, does a better job promoting Christian-Muslim harmony than Egypt, a nation with an ever-fading pride as a bastion of monotheistic learning and tolerance.

Learn from the comrades

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Kill Twitter

Twitter might be a convenient platform for passing along quick thoughts or building up one's vanity, as the case may be. It is not the appropriate way to run U.S. foreign policy. The Obama twits need to grow up.

From the Monroe Doctrine to 140 characters or less

Monday, February 11, 2013

Nasr Automotive - The Return of the Junk Car

Bringing back the good times!

Apparently having nothing else to do given the prevailing safety and security Egypt enjoys these days, the Egyptian military has decided to have its production arm restart manufacturing of the country's very own crap-mobile, El Nasr. If anything exemplifies the utter failings of Nasserist economic policies, it is the junk car produced by the state-owned El Nasr Automotive Manufacturing Company (NASCO). Notwithstanding the advantages of massive tariff barriers, subsidized production and an effective monopoly on the domestic market for over two decades, NASCO was forced to mothball production lines in 2009, as finicky consumers turned to better produced and cheaper cars.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Captain Bob: Egypt is not Ahly

Coach Bob Bradley has done an admirable job sticking with Egyptian football through all of the challenges he has faced since taking the reigns in 2011. He appears astute (even if somewhat overly tactical) in game planning, and all reports are that he gets along well with the federation, players and fans, a feat that should not be underestimated given their chaotic natures. However, his myopic focus on Ahly and external leagues for the national team's player selection is putting the World Cup 2014 qualification objective at risk. 

Not good
True as it is that the scouting process has been made more difficult because of the stoppage of the domestic league for twelve months (and major kuddos to all for getting it re-started, even if without fans), a goalkeeper as poor as Sherif Ekramy simply has no place on the team. He is bad with Ahly, and he is bad with Egypt. Mohamed Abou Treika's aging legs sunk Egypt in the decisive qualifier versus Algeria in 2010, and three years on, he is not getting any better, nor will he by summer 2014. Same goes for the likes of Wael Gomaa and Sayed Moawad. And who is Adam El Abd? No one had heard of the guy before, and for good reason since he is terrible, but Bradley constantly picks a sluggish defender playing on a provincial side in England, seemingly only because he is playing on a provincial side in England.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Arab Bling

There is so much focus on the Arab Spring (or dark winter) these days, that it risks overlooking the colorful things that really make Egyptians tick.  Here's to the Arab Bling:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Black Bloc

Continuing the auspicious trend of revolutionary superheroes promising to save the day, the mysterious Black Bloc has swooped onto the means streets of Egypt.  Unfortunately, they have not quite yet figured how to outfit themselves.  A helpful tip on how to wear black socks can be found below:

And it's missing a "k"

Monday, January 28, 2013

NSF - Failing to Save the Nation

Egypt's "liberal" (John Locke would beg to differ with the identification) opposition movement is a failure. The National Salvation Front's grandiose name does nothing to hide its gross limitations. This is a group that, notwithstanding the epic shortcomings of the ruling Islamists and the widespread disillusion of Egyptians of all types, is unable to make itself matter. It cynically expresses horror after recklessly egging on mayhem on the streets. It finds political value in every passing tragedy, from Port Said to Cairo and back again. Its media outlets rejoice in disaster and loss, headlining each down day on the stock market (which, incidentally, increased by over 50% year-on-year in 2012) and tsk-tsking the inability of Egypt to find consensus in the face of their driven divisiveness. Its inept leaders are ever so brave in saying no, and utter cowards in ever saying yes to anything that does not fit into their zero sum political calculations.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Bull Shit Justice

Egypt has outdone its pathetic self and found a new low. In a vain, politicized, chaotic and cowardly decision, the Egyptian "justice system" has concluded that twenty-one more fans must die. This is how justice is served for the seventy-two (or seventy-four...even the number of dead from the Masry-Ahly debacle is not known, but such minor details needn't interfere with getting on with things). The exigencies of chalking up a victory for the incompetent prosecution, throwing a bone to the dogs barking for accountability for the sixty years of the raping of the country, the legitimizing of conspiracy narratives, quieting the court-room mayhem and giving a sense of satisfaction to the self-identified revolutionary heroes of Tahrir, made throwing away twenty-one irrelevant lives from provincial Port Said an easy call.

Friday, January 25, 2013

What to do with Egypt?

Need more Happy Meals
There have been endless, mostly bad ideas from in and around the small-minded Obama Administration on how to deal with the chaos that is Egypt today. From fateful resignation, to enthusiastic support, to demands for aggressive confrontation, such approaches are at best insufficient, and are more likely to be counterproductive to the goal of a stable Egypt emerging from the foggy aftermath of January 25, 2011. A concise way forward is offered by the editors of Bloomberg (who somehow are more attuned to an effective foreign policy and the circumstances in Egypt than the phalanx of "experts" in Washington and Cairo). The call for active but measured U.S. engagement that can steer Egypt toward fuller integration with the modern world -- through such things as a free trade agreement and an IMF loan package -- is right for the United States and right for Egypt.  

Egypt’s Transition Needs Some Quiet U.S. Help

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Problem with Bassem Youssef

Bassem Youssef's El Bernameg is well-produced, witty and topical.  It is good in its own right, and especially good relative to the tired standards of feigned seriousness, pumped up shouting matches and bad drama for comparable shows on Egyptian and pan-Arab television. Bassem Youssef, however, has become too big for his own good.