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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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June 14, 2009

And Now Some Politics

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Posted by Derek

My Twitter account usually only gets my posts on this blog (the first 140 characters of them, that is). But those of you who follow me there have been flooded with updates of a very different kind for the last 24 hours or so. My Iranian-born wife and I have been watching the news carefully, as the Iranian election situation seems to be getting out of control. She's been translating Farsi-language updates, and I've been reposting them - there will probably be more of this over the next few days.

You can imagine where my sympathies lie, as a non-religious guy with libertarian leanings. Confusion and bad luck to the mullahs, to everyone who helped them steal this election, and to their henchmen beating members of the opposition in the streets. Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of electoral choice are easy to take for granted in some parts of the world, but none of them come easy.

And more to the usual subject of this blog: the Iranians have produced a lot of top-notch people in science, medicine, and engineering - I've seen and worked with many of them. But I'd love to be able to see what they could accomplish working from a free and stable country, and I hope I get the chance. We'll see.

If you're looking for news, #iranelection on Twitter is a firehouse of information, good and bad, and will lead you to plenty of other sites. The National Iranian American Council is an excellent source, and Andrew Sullivan is doing a fine job covering the situation, too.

Comments (16) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blog Housekeeping | Current Events


1. Canageek on June 14, 2009 11:54 PM writes...

Could you post your twitter account? I'm having a touch of trouble locating it

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2. Mat Todd on June 15, 2009 4:31 AM writes...

Derek, what's your take on the thesis that our surprise at the result is because we don't understand Ahmedinejad's rural support levels? (e.g.

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3. RB Woodweird on June 15, 2009 6:14 AM writes...

Operation Ajax. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

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4. davesnyd on June 15, 2009 6:54 AM writes...

Can you provide an update as you (more likely, she) sees it?

When you read CNN, you get a sense of a low level street protest. But other sources make it sound like the entire country is in revolt and that Moussavi's life is being threatened.

In her opinion, does Khamenei ordering an election review imply that they will use that as an opportunity to call for new elections or will it likely be a whitewash of the current results?

This week has been disconcerting-- in the past, in that neighborhood, the Iranians had previously held elections that looked (again, relatively speaking) fairly democratic.

The sea change of last week's election has been unnerving.

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5. Derek Lowe on June 15, 2009 7:40 AM writes...

Mat T - it's true that Ahmedinejad's base is rural (along with the urban poor). And it's certainly possible that he could win a close election by getting those people to turn out strongly. But it's hard to believe that it could be done in the first round, with no runoff. And the margins the gov. is reporting are bizarre - they have the opposition candidates losing their home provinces, even their home towns, by the same sorts of 70:30 ratios. It's like reporting that Obama not only lost Illinois, but Chicago as well. The results are also supposed to take 3 days to certify, but this one was announced as a fait accompli in about two hours, taking everyone by surprise.

Davesnyd, my wife doesn't think that Khameini is going to bend an inch unless he has to. And actually, today's announcement from him is a bit of a bend, since over the weekend he was referring to the election results as "divine". It's a step up from that, anyway.

But overall, this is absolutely the most serious and widespread unrest since 1979 - all the Iranian sources I have seem to agree on that. Where it goes from here is impossible to predict, though: things could fizzle out in a few days if people get resigned to their fate, or (at the other end of the scale) it could escalate to near-civil-war levels. There's just no telling - it's like trying to predict how large a hurricane will be, or where it will make landfall.

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6. Jonadab the Unsightly One on June 15, 2009 7:40 AM writes...

This is Iran we're talking about. The best government they've ever had, arguably, was the Achaemenid dynasty. You can't expect such a nation to transform into a Western-style free society overnight. Merely having more than one significant party participate meaningfully in an election is a significant milestone.

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7. Arash on June 15, 2009 9:33 AM writes...

I'd like to also mention all the Iranians contributing to science here in the U.S. There are numerous top Iranian professors at MIT, boston college, Scripps, and others.

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8. Anonymous on June 15, 2009 9:51 AM writes...

And many of them (or their families) came over during the unrest in 1979. Iran's loss is America's gain.

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9. milkshake on June 15, 2009 11:02 AM writes...

As Stalin was fond saying, those who count the votes decide the election.

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10. Hap on June 15, 2009 11:49 AM writes...

The bad news is, that when Iran has another of their religious power grabs, more people come here, leaving fewer people for Iran to actually build a stable and prosperous country. Of course, you would figured that the people who want to run Iran (and other places) would have figured that out, but I guess they'd rather rule a graveyard with an iron fist than be the caretakers of a productive farm.

I wish these guys would stop reading 1984 as a how-to book. They do realize how it ended, right?

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11. Jessi on June 15, 2009 12:31 PM writes...

I think there will be significant difficulty in gaining a lot of context from what we see on Twitter, regardless of it's real time coverage. But I have also been seeing debate on whether the reason we think there should be upheaval over election results is because our MSM reported that Mousavi actually had a chance to win, and others say he in reality did not. I would love to see more information on this topic whenever you hear more. I will follow the #iranelections though.
Some more analysis of the situation:

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12. Paul S on June 15, 2009 12:54 PM writes...

Derek, perhaps you or another poster here can help me understand something.

I don't blame the Iranian people for being unhappy over what looks like naked fraud in their election. But I'm puzzled at the level of outrage. It's as though they honestly expected Ahmedinejad and the mullahs to run a fair election and let a moderate win. Has Iran actually had free and fair elections up to this point, so they've come to expect it? If not, then why is anyone surprised?

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13. Derek Lowe on June 15, 2009 2:21 PM writes...

Paul, I think it's the blatancy of it that did the trick. Iranians are a pretty proud, touchy bunch (hey, I should know!) And if they think that someone's played them for fools, they get very mad, very quickly. That seems to be what's happened here. If it had been more subtle - a runoff, a close race, the incumbent pulls it out - none of this probably would have happened, even if many people would have wondered about fraud.

But the daylight-robbery aspect really has people ticked off. And now that they've been able to vent their feelings in the streets, all kinds of stuff is coming out, all the way from people who just want a recount to those who want to see ayatollahs swinging from the streetlights.

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14. Paul S on June 16, 2009 12:49 PM writes...

This leaves me a question about Mousavi.

By all appearances he went into this thing thinking that he could win. That means that either he really thought the election would be fair (and he's surely not that naive) or he thought that the forces rigging the election were as likely to work for him as against him.

In fact I've read at least one analyst who argues that Mousavi is on enough government committees that it would be difficult to arrange a fix in the election without him knowing about it in advance. That suggests a major power struggle within the government of Iran itself - perhaps all the way up to the mullahs.

If that's the case, then the street protests we're seeing are only the tip of the iceberg - really just symptoms of the fight behind the scenes. Which leaves me wondering how far the two sides - if sides there are - will be willing to push this. Civil war isn't out of the question in a scenario like that, though I would expect the mullahs to intervene before it gets to that point.

I suppose the other possibility is that Mousavi never thought he could win, and that this whole thing is some kind of theater. But that's a little too Orwellian for my tastes.

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15. Anonymous on June 17, 2009 10:30 PM writes...

I invite you all to read the "Shock Doctrine."

1984 is still alive

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16. Micha Elyi on June 29, 2009 8:16 PM writes...

Firehose, not "firehouse" of information.

Operation Ajax was a good idea at the time. Operation Elect James Earl Carter was the bonehead idea then and remains so today.

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