Saturday, March 26, 2005

Republican child abusers

George W. Bush's ambassador to Italy, Melvin Sembler -- an old friend of the Bush family -- ran the finances of Dubya's 2000 campaign. But the 75-year-old Sembler has an ugly little secret: He ran a cult-like "behavior control" clinic which abused the underaged.

Sembler's "therapies" were so outrageous that the program was shut down during the early Clinton years.

Sembler and his wife Betty called their program STRAIGHT. Supposedly, the purpose was to rehabilitate young drug addicts. Of course, the notorious Synanon cult of the 1970s (regularly invited to speak at my high school, even after the exposes began to appear) had the same claimed objective, until the press revealed the founder's penchant for violence and attempted murder.

STRAIGHT has a history so troubling as to make Synanon's rattlesnake-in-the-mailbox hijinx seem like mere pranksterism. Jeff Gorenfeld offers this report about Sembler:

There were major problems, though. He modeled STRAIGHT after another program, creepily named "The Seed," shut down after the U.S. Congress literally issued a report in 1974 comparing it to "the highly refined 'brainwashing' techniques employed by the North Koreans." Sembler's imitation wasn't shut down until 1993 for illegal child abuse: beatings and sexual humiliation. Kids were thrown against walls. Or forced to sit in their own menstrual blood. Unless, of course, they were ready to cooperate, confess, and chant "I'm at STRAIGHT, feeling great" with the others. In that case they got to be the enforcers. Dozens of lawsuits exposed a similar picture in 12 clinics across America.
STRAIGHT did not truly end in 1993: Under a new name, the Drug-Free America Foundation, the group metamorphosed into a drug policy pressure group.

Another site,, is devoted to uncovering child abuse networks masquerading as therapeutic systems. They reveal that STRAIGHT "alumni" have reported terrifying beatings and other forms of torture and humiliation, inflicted on them during enforced isolation from all family members.

Here is the story of one child forced to undergo Sembler's tender mercies:

One girl pulled her up and down by the hair until her head was numb. She kept telling them she had to go to the bathroom, but they wouldn't let her go. When they finally did, they kept trying to pull her off the commode as she was using it. When she had finished, she stated, a girl started twisting her arm until another girl told her to stop or she would break it. They made her use a paper towel to scoop her own feces out of the toilet. After three hours of this she was forcefully taken to stand before the GROUP of 600 Straight kids where kids would stand up and say she was no good. One old comer yelled for the GROUP to leave her alone when Straight's national clinical director, Reverend Doctor V. Miller Newton went over and started screaming at the girl. Two girls came up and put their hands over Leigh's mouth so she couldn't breathe. Dr Newton, who was an ordained minister, in front of 600 kids, grabbed Ms. Bright by her hair and threw her to the floor stating, "I want this girl the fuck out of my GROUP." She was taken into the intake room where Dr Newton told the old comers to keep her awake until Monday night. Since this occurred on a Saturday, Ms Bright was kept awoke for 80 hours, during which time girls would push her and make her stand for 12 hours at a time all the while calling her a whore.
A surprising number of STRAIGHT horror stories indicate the staff's sick obsession with toilet habits. Here's the account of another victim, named Donald:

There were an immense number of times where I was forced to urinate and defecate on myself because they basically took my bathroom privilege away. I wasn't allowed to go to the bathroom. And I witnessed a lot of other people in there ending up urinating and defecating on themselves because being in a restraint. They told you were too dangerous to get up and go to the bathroom, those who asked. If you asked to go to the bathroom, you were afraid because if you did ask, then you'd be afraid to end up getting your tooth through your lip and I had it done many times.
As you read the above, always keep in mind: This house of horrors was assembled by Melvin Sembler, a man long close to the Bush family. Sembler now represents you in Italy.

Imagine the conservative press reaction if a Clinton ally had a similar history!

Wes Fager has put together a remarkable page on the numerous connections between the Republican party and the Semblers' cult.

A side note: Some of you may hope to learn more about Sembler's henchman, the afore-mentioned "Reverend Doctor V. Miller Newton," described by a number of lawsuits as a sadistic child abuser. Now calling himself Father Cassian Newton of the "Orthodox Catholic Church" (one of several groups going by that name; none are affiliated with the Roman Catholic church), he and his wife went on to found their own STRAIGHT offshoot, KIDS of North Jersey.

He eventually had to settle 254 fraudulent insurance claims. But that's only the beginning: Six years ago, Newton settled with an abused former "client" named Rebecca Ehrlich for 4.5 million dollars. I have yet to discover where he obtains the funds to pay these settlements, which, taken together, now total over $11,000,000.

Even more mysterious are the linkages between these STRAIGHT men and the G.O.P. Of Newton's nefarious and widely-reported abuses in New Jersey, we learn that:

...nothing was ever done. In fact for 10 years Republican Governor Christie Whitman ignored Judge Klinger, Judge DelBaglivo, the newspaper and television reports. For 10 years Len Fisher, Governor Whitman's Commissioner of Health and Human Services, granted Dr. Newton a special certificate to operate.
Newton even received a videotaped commendation from Nancy Reagan herself, who was a frequent visitor to STRAIGHT clinics. (She called the toilet-obsessive STRAIGHT program "the best drug abuse treatment program I have ever seen.) Even though the ACLU sued STRAIGHT for abuse and kidnapping as early as 1982, Nancy continued to ally herself with the group and with the sadistic "Reverend" Newton.

This page shows GHWB attending a STRAIGHT conference. The parents of our current president would stay at the Sembler home during campaign stops in Florida. The same page offers a link to a video of GHWB offering Sembler's program an official endorsement -- well after the horror stories began to emerge.

More recently, Barbara Bush has made a film endorsing the DFAF, the current incarnation of STRAIGHT. She has done so despite the many reports by survivors that the Sembler cult tortures children.

The pattern is unmistakable. In previous posts, we have discussed the Bush family's enthusiasm for the Moon cult and for the child-abusing Children of God. Now we have the current White House honoring the toilet-obsessive, child-abusing cult leader Melvin Sembler.

Just why do the Bushies forge these links?


Anonymous said...


"Gov. Jeb Bush once named a "Betty Sembler Day" in Florida to honor his wife's ongoing, taxpayer-funded campaigns on behalf of workplace urine tests."

John said...


Thanks for the kind link.

One thing I didn't have space for will probably confirm your suspicions. The family tree for STRAIGHT goes directly back to Synanon, which was the inspiration for "The Seed" of Florida, which was the inspiration for STRAIGHT.

In other words, the Bushes have more of a tie to New Age Marin County hot-tubbers than they'd like to admit...but only the worst aspects of that.

Anonymous said...