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My interview with Harriet Fraad: Occupy, Depression and Capitalism

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 16:32
Dr. Harriet Fraad – Photos by Cat Watters

I sat down in person with Dr. Harriet Fraad, who works with the Marxian economist Richard D Wolff, on Tuesday to discuss the pathologizing of conditions like depression that author and journalist Johann Hari recently illustrated in his new book ‘Lost Connections‘. The video interview can be watched at the end of this article. Here is some information on Dr. Fraad from her website:

Harriet Fraad is a mental health counselor and hypnotherapist in practice in New York City. She is a founding member of the feminist movement and the journal Rethinking Marxism. For 40 years, she has been a radical committed to transforming US personal and political life.

Harriet specializes in speaking and writing about topics in which psychology and economics overlap, as these topics remain loaded with taboos, confusions, ignorance, and fear preventing us from asking big questions and daring to discuss big answers. By analyzing issues where psychology and economics collide, we can better analyze our society and our individuality as well.

We discussed the solutions of conditions like depression and the search for real solutions instead of false capitalism ‘solutions’ seeking to ‘profit’ rather than truly solve problems. “The corporate/ capitalist ‘solution’ which is to sell them something that doesn’t work. Which, because it doesn’t work, they keep prescribing more and more. That is our mental health care system which is a ‘profit’ driven health care system and mental health care system”.

Dr Fraad talked about the significance of the Occupy Wall Street movement, “The 99% and the 1%, people started to say, No. It was a national effort to crush that movement. They changed the discourse and the language that discussed racism, sexism but never class. Never why are some people so ‘rich’ and other people so ‘poor'”. We discussed the blatant rigging of the system and how companies outsource jobs to cheap labor overseas. “Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again hats are made in China”.

Dr Fraad mentioned Irving Kirsch and his book The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth. “Antidepressants work no better than a sugar pill. That SSRI’s: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The only thing they can be counted on to to is give you side effects. Those are absolutely reliable.”

Dr Fraad stated, “England is more sophisticated than we”, and then went on to talk about, “Joe Cox (Helen Joanne Cox) who was a very, very important member of Parliament. She was beloved because she really served the people in her district and a labor representative in the style of Corbyn, a left, anti-Capitalist, labor representative.” Cox was killed by a white nationalist in public in June 2016.

“But, not before she did a study on loneliness in England and created the Minister of Loneliness. Loneliness, isolation, depression, anxiety and that’s something that has been written brilliantly written about in Johann Hari’s Lost Connections“.

I asked Dr Fraad about the point Hari makes about our physical needs for food, clothing, shelter, and also our emotional needs for belonging, meaningful work, feeling valued, etc. I shared how my own experience has shown me that humans are meant to live to an optimum level of health and fitness physically, emotionally and spiritually and not live at such a low bar we seem to have set for ourselves. Health is not just the absence of cancer.

Dr Fraad added, “Then capitalism comes in a sells people drugs, weapons, testosterone cream because men no longer have family wages that allow them to be served by women. Capitalism Creates the disaster and then sells things to deal with it that don’t deal with it”.

I then brought up the point Hari makes about the depressed person, and not just depression but, many other normal human expressions like anger, where it’s the depressed person who is left to deal and handle the problem themselves as if they are the problem alone when the fact is it is a systemic worldwide problem and needs to be addressed and dealt with.

It’s not even the depressed person’s fault. They are the inheritors of the problem, the scapegoat for others. The “depressed” person, or the “criminal” or the “angry” person is nothing but the symptom of the SYSTEM and everyone else who is a contributor. It’s just the person who exhibits the problem that gets singled out as the ill person. A depressed person is often the individual that puts the effort in to expose uncomfortable truths. But the problem begins because the other people around that person avoid looking at themselves and taking on any responsibility so the problems “collect” on the “depressed” person.

The modern epidemic of depression is EVERYONE’S problem just like climate change is everyone’s problem. And it’s those who are LEAST responsible, the indigenous and the poor, who end up inheriting the bill.

To close the interview, Dr. Fraad spoke about the remarkable story of the Sackler family and Big Pharma who have ‘profited’ excessively from the sale of Oxycontin and other pain killers responsible for the explosion in cases of addiction and overdose deaths in the America. The full interview can be watched here:

GOP submits latest Pennsylvania district maps to governor

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 13:34

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Facing a deadline imposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the state legislature’s two top Republicans late Friday submitted to the governor a new statewide map of congressional districts to replace boundaries that the court ruled were unconstitutional. The map was submitted by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and House Speaker Mike Turzai.…


Saudi activist detained after questioning renewed Israel ties

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 13:22
Noha al-Balawi

A Saudi activist, who questioned the normalisation of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, has been detained in her home country, and could face up to five years in prison, a UK-based rights group said. Noha al-Balawi has reportedly been under detention in the northwestern region of Tabuk for more than two weeks, ALQST, a group…


Why a Vietnamese City Rescinded Order Curtailing Press Freedom

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 13:19

One day after Danang authorities issued guidelines requiring the local press to obtain official approval before disseminating content, city officials rescinded the order in the face of public outcry. Vietnamese media reported that along with the withdrawal of the censorship request, the Danang Department of Information and Communications also “sincerely apologized to the press.” The directive…


Thailand protesters march to demand national elections

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 13:14
Bangkok’s Democracy Monument – link

Around 400 people have gathered at a monument to democracy in the Thai capital to urge the military government not to delay a national election planned later this year. Elections to restore democracy have been postponed several times with November being the latest date set by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who was appointed by a military-backed…


Nasty succession fights consume Zimbabwe’s opposition

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 00:50
Flag of the Movement for Democratic Change – link

Zimbabwe’s main opposition party is proving to be its own worst enemy as it bids to topple the ruling Zimbabwe African National Congress Patrotic Front (ZANU-PF) in this year’s general elections. As never before in the public domain, the nasty succession fights which characterised the ruling ZANU-PF between 2013-2017 are now playing out in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), and tempers continue to flare.

Instead of capitalizing on voter antagonism toward ZANU-PF and President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s role in the self-serving coup that led to the resignation of president Robert Mugabe after 37 years of rule, Zimbabwe’s main opposition party has stumbled. The MDC-T has been consumed with infighting over who of the three party Vice-Presidents should be acting president in the absence of longtime leader Morgan Tsvangirai who is being treated at a South African hospital for colon cancer.

The infighting reached its peak on Thursday as there was a flood of conflicting statements on who was acting president. The confusion drew criticism from a cross-section of Zimbabweans and has diverted attention towards the party’s struggles to improve services and manage a severe water crisis in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare and in the other municipalities where it wrested control from the ZANU since in 2000. The party’s three Vice-Presidents, Dr. Thokozani Khupe, Elias Mudzuri and Advocate Nelson Chamisa, each seem to be aiming to succeed Mr. Tsvangirai. Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tambironyoka and the party’s national spokesperson Obert Gutu have contributed to the public spat.

The senior MDC-T party hierarchy escalated their public clash on Thursday as they jostled to succeed ailing Tsvangirai who is now in South Africa. Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka in an alleged statement claimed that Chamisa was now the new acting president. Then the party spokesperson Obert Gutu insisted on Thursday that Mudzuri remained the acting president.

Later in the same day, Tamborinyoka issued a statement again, this time saying deputy Chamisa would act as president indefinitely until Tsvangirai returned. Gutu immediately interjected using his account on Twitter to say that he was authoritatively informed that Mudzuri was still the acting president.

On Wednesday, the third of the party’s Vice-Presidents Dr. Thokozani Khupe seemed to challenge the legitimacy of her two colleagues, contributing to the debacle through her Twitter handle by saying:

Three consecutive MDC-T congresses have elected yours truly as Deputy President to President @mrtsvangirai & other officers primarily to avoid a leadership vacuum at such an eventuality, & to shut any that may be artificially created by those with hidden agendas.

I was MDC-T A/President for months in 2008 on the basis of our constitution which has remained unchanged & clear on the roles of elected officers of congress. It does not give any extensive powers to any one office bearer such that without them the party is dysfunctional.

Those of us sincerely concerned about the Zimbabwean voters & their MDC-T must impress upon the 2014 congressionally elected leadership at their level to take decisive corrective measures against the use of president @mrtsvangirai’s name to propagate unconstitutional-ism.

MDC-T cannot afford the Zanu PF politics of rhetoric, self-help & free for all rumble in the jungle power take overs & decision making. We need a constitutionally ordered way of presenting ourselves to the voters in a clear & inspiring manner. It shall be well, stay blessed.

There is no doubt that MDC has been shooting itself in the foot. Its internal problems are doing serious damage to its image and will undermine its attempts to portray itself as a viable alternative to the ZANU-PF that has been seen as successfully dealing with its internal fighting following the coup that brought Mnangagwa to power last November. Personality clashes and disagreements over policy have already cost the MDC control of the House of Assembly in 2013 general elections.

ZANU-PF is looking united

The timing for the MDC’s woes is awful. While it capitalized on anger over the non-formation of an inclusive government after the coup, the MDC is now up against a ruling party that’s been revitalized under a new dispensation that has been warmly received worldwide.

The election of Emmerson Mnangagwa to replace Mugabe as its leader in December will probably reduce the odds of the ZANU-PF support dropping below the 50 percent mark during the upcoming general elections. Under the current system, the party has won every presidential vote outright since independence from Britain in 1980 when Robert Mugabe led it to power. It secured 62 percent backing in 2013 first round presidential election up from 42 percent mark in the bloody first round of the 2008 election.

Tribal concerns

Tribal and other kinship ties rooted mainly between the Shona-speaking northerners and Ndebele-speaking citizens who occupy the southern parts of the country play a relatively big role in Zimbabwe although not at the paralyzing levels of some other countries. Nonetheless, clan ties often are reflected in patterns of appointments and networks of power. For example, in 2009 Professor Welshmen Ncube, a Ndebele, had to give up party presidency for Professor Arthur Mutambara, a Shona, in the hope the party to be “acceptable to the Shona citizens.”

The same tensions are also reflected in the current infighting within the MDC. MDC congress elected Dr. Thokozani Khupe, a Ndebelem, as Vice-President in 2005. Now it seems she is being sidelined in favour of the other two Shona-speaking Vice-Presidents, Mudzuri and Chamisa, both who were never elected by congress. Mudzuri and Chamisa are appointees of Tsvangirai’s making early last year.

The general feeling is that Tsvangirai is positioning Chamisa to take over leadership of the party at the expense of Dr. Khupe who was elected by congress. This infighting will probably require Tsvangirai to come and extinguish the flames. However, his health condition remains unknown as there are conflicting statements thus far, some saying he is critical whilst other party insiders stating he is critical but stable. Things in Zimbabwe are turning.

A Recent Analysis of the Pro-Democracy Togo Protests

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 23:25
Faure Gnassingbé – link

Protesters are demanding President Faure Gnassingbé leave power. The ruling party and army are adamant he stays. For Togolese protesters, the 1 February announcement that a dialogue was to be held between the ruling party and opposition came as a surprise. As they were gearing up for another round of rallies, reactions ranged from incredulity to…


Democratic Party reveal plan for Georgia gerrymandering reform

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 23:13

What’s Happening?: A democratic group led by former Attorney General Eric Holder and backed by Barack Obama has its sights set on Georgia’s upcoming gubernatorial and senate races. The group, The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, has targeted 11 states this election cycle and says it hopes to win enough seats in red states to gain more…


Across the Continent, Young African Women Turn to Coding

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 14:05

More women techies could help close income inequality gap At Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Angela Koranteng was an accomplished student with a special dream. At a time when few women were breaking the gender barrier in male-dominated studies, Ms. Koranteng had her heart set on health sciences—but instead of treating patients, she wanted…


Worries over the accuracy of recent Mozambique election

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 13:24
Brand new image by Adrian Tawfik! Soon to be added to the other 50 original images at his “Democracy Flag Series” on Flickr.

“The conduct of the Nampula by-election was unacceptable,” the civil society coalition Votar Mocambique declared in its report on the 24 January election, released today. “There was a degree of sloppiness which should not occur, and which should not be permitted in democratic elections.” The report cites the statement by Nampula Provincial Elections Commission spokesperson Bernardino…


Ex-Jets center Nick Mangold considers run for NJ Congress

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 13:10

Ex-Jets center Nick Mangold has been politically active in the Republican Party for a while. But now, he is thinking about running for Congress, according to Essex County Republican Chairman Al Barlas, in an interview with Politico. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a 71-year-old Republican who represents New Jersey’s 11th congressional district, is retiring. Mangold is considering running in…


Releasing Ethiopian Prisoners of Conscience is Key to Reform

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 13:00
Eskinder Nega artwork by EFF – link

Commenting on breaking news from Ethiopia that journalist and Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Eskinder Nega will be among 746 prisoners released as part of a government pardon, Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said: “It is wonderful news that this brave journalist will soon walk…


VIDEO: Review of Modern Democracy and Disinformation

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 12:55

A new video starring Bob Abeshouse reviews how the battle for accurate information has been affected by a rise in disinformation. Al Jazeera is by the non-democratic Qatari government but often has good analysis of democracy trends – outside of Qatar at least. Al Jazeera gave the following summary for the video:

For democracies to flourish and succeed, voters need accurate information on which to base their decisions; to weigh up the relative merits of proposed policy A over proposed policy B, to judge whether this candidate is more trustworthy or reliable than that one, or that these promises are more likely to be kept than those. But recent elections, most notably that of Donald Trump as US President, have highlighted the dangers to this process posed by those using social media and the internet to spread malevolent propaganda and fake news.

In the alternative cyber-reality they’ve constructed, fiction suddenly becomes become fact, lies become accepted truths, partisanship is entrenched and consensus about the real size of the budget deficit or the number of immigrants coming into the country or even whether a foreign power is a dangerous threat, becomes almost impossible to achieve.

So how and why have we arrived at this point? How is it that platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter have become, at the same time, so powerful and yet so apparently wide open to abuse and manipulation? How, in other words, is social media being used to undermine the core principles of representative governance?

This video has two-parts. Here is both. First part one:

Then part two:

New Widget Tech Helps Follow the Money in Illinois Election

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 12:23

The 2018 race for Illinois governor could be the most expensive in U.S. history. With nine months until election day, the five leading candidates have raised more than $136 million, already exceeding any other contest before in Illinois. Democrat J.B. Pritzker has spent over $34 million of his $49 million campaign chest in an attempt to…


Rumors that Zimbabwe set to pardon 2500 political prisoners

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 12:19

Minister Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi told the state media that his ministry was going to lobby for a presidential pardon. The prison inmates population currently stands at 19 700. A stakeholder strategic plan review workshop for the ministry held in Kadoma depicted appalling conditions for prisoners, with Prosecutor General Advocate Ray Goba telling…


A close up look at North Korea’s princess Kim Yo Jong

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 12:09
Kim Yo Jong

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s increasingly influential sister has become one of his closest confidantes in a country where power has always been a family affair. Kim Yo Jong made history Friday as the first member of the North’s ruling dynasty to set foot in the South since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.…


Other than money, what gets Members of Congress to respond?

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 11:30

By Jan Leighley, Professor, Department of Government, American University and Jennifer Oser, Senior Lecturer, Department of Politics and Government, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Does citizen activism really affect the actions of elected officials? Despite the ubiquitous role of money in campaigns, elections and policymaking, some citizens clearly still believe in the power of protest. In…


Ukraine’s chief economic adviser sacked after corruption charges

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 20:00

Ukraine’s president has dismissed his chief economic adviser, Boris Lozhkin, hours after Al Jazeera contacted both men over a story that indicates they received tens of millions of dollars raised fraudulently. The money was part of a $500m payment from another oligarch, Sergei Kurchenko, who played a central role in the government of former President Viktor…


VIDEO: Trump’s challenge to antiquated federal ethics regulation

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 19:41

In a new video just published by the Brennan Center for Justice, a panel of expert discuss how Trump’s enormous wealth and continued control of his businesses has challenged existing legal structure for government ethics regulation. The event, titled “Reforming Government Ethics in the Age of Trump” was produced in partnership with the NYU John Brademas Center and NYU Washington, DC. The event description:

President Donald Trump’s decision to keep control of his business empire despite apparent conflicts of interest is but one of a number of ethical controversies that have made headlines since Inauguration Day one year ago. As informal guardrails that constrain self-dealing by those in power fall away, what can be done to shore up federal ethics laws to give the public confidence that their leaders will put the interests of the American people first?

This panel will review the most significant gaps that exist in our system of federal ethics regulation, consider the special challenges that accompany any effort to regulate the president’s conduct in office, and debate the most promising ideas for reform.


  • Kimberly Atkins, Chief Washington Reporter/Columnist, Boston Herald
  • Kathleen Clark, Professor of Law, Washington University School of Law
  • Walter Shaub, Senior Director, Ethics, Campaign Legal Center and former Director of the Office of Government Ethics
  • Daniel I. Weiner, Senior Counsel, Democracy Program, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law

This video is about 90 minutes. Take a look:

Are countries across Latin America vulnerable to election hacking?

Thu, 02/08/2018 - 18:34

Trump administration officials and Democrats in Congress cannot agree on almost anything, but they are increasingly voicing the same concern when it comes to Latin America: Russia will try to influence the upcoming elections in Mexico, Colombia and other countries in the region. After returning from a five-country Latin American tour, U.S. Secretary of State Rex…