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September 22, 2006

Lieberman fundraiser ran the Abu Ghraib of rehab

Have you heard about the Beyerstein-Lieberman-GOP-Beyerstein connection?

Republican big shot Mel Sembler threw a fund-raiser for Joe Lieberman this week. In addition to being a close personal friend of Dick Cheney and the chair of Scooter Libby's legal defense fund, Sembler is a major figure in the War on Drugs. He founded a chain of treatment centers called Straight, Inc. Before that, he helped run a "tough love" treatment program called "The Seed." In 1974, a congressional investigation found that The Seed was getting government money to practice experimental mind-control similar to that inflicted by the North Koreans during the Cold War. Perhaps disturbingly, experimental mind control wasn't illegal, per se. But it would have required a ton of extra paperwork for The Seed to carry on. So, Sembler founded Straight, Incorporated in 1976. Straight continued to abuse teenagers under the guise of treatment until 1993. The organization has been sued dozens of times and staff members have faced criminal charges.

My father, Barry Beyerstein, investigated Straight in the early nineties and wrote a report on the psychological abuse that was taking place under the guise of treatment.

The opening chapter of Maia Szalavitz's Help At Any Cost describes how Mel Sembler was intimately involved in the "extraordinary renditions" that some reluctant inmates endured.

I didn't realize that Holy Joe's new fundraising friend was the head of Straight until my friend Evan emailed me yesterday. He happened to find my dad's report on the internet while he was researching Sembler.

See my post at Firedoglake for more details, including Sembler's embarrassing penis pump problem.

General JC Christian is all over this thing, in a manly heterosexual way.

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» Mel Sembler of Straight Hosts Lieberman Fundraiser from TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime
Republican and former Ambassador Mel Sembler co-hosted a fundraiser for Joe Lieberman . Who's Mel Sembler? Besides being the Chair of Scooter Libby's defense trust, remember Straight? If not, Lindsay at Majikthise (and writing more at Firedoglake) and ... [Read More]

» Doublespeak: Straight is crooked from cannablog
I want to thank Lindsey Beyerstein for writing about the very sick case of Mel Sembler, a former finance chairman for the Republican National Committee, fundraiser for former Democratic Party member and defeated-in-the-primary-but-running-anyhow senato... [Read More]

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Comments

Six degrees of Lindsay Beyerstein. The kooky kristian konnection just gives ya the warm fuzzies. Think I'll go for a nice bowl of Vietnamese sate soup and briefly forget we gotta share this precious little mud ball with the above mentioned.

Frightening. It reminds me of a group called Synanon, that was active in California in the 70s and 80s, until it was shut down. Actress/writer Deb Swisher wrote her one-woman show, Hundreds of Sisters and One Big Brother, about her experiences in Synanon. I usually can't stand the idea of one-person shows, but that was because I'd never seen them done as well as Ms. Swisher did. I laughed and cried and then brought people.

Her experiences at Synanon were horrifying, but now it only sounds as if Synanon was a poor carbon-copy of this Straight group. I wonder if they were affiliated.

Is it worth mentioning that Bush appointed this asshole as ambassador to Italy (2001 - 2005), even though that sick fuck can't speak fucking Italian?!? They even named an annex of the US Embassy in Rome after that son of a bitch. (Check out other unbelievable honors bestowed on that fucker here. The rest of my opinion about this prick and the prick who appointed him to the Italian ambassadorship can be read here. Forgive this extremely rare crosspost, Lindsay. I just don't have it in me to rehash the disgust I feel toward this worthless fuck.

1984, you've hit the nail on the head: Straight, Inc. is a direct descendent of Synanon (via The Seed).

John, it's worse than that. Sembler basically named the building after himself and the annex after his longtime crony, Florida Congressman Bill Young. The president literally said, "Can we name buildings after living ambassadors?" and his aide had to say, "Well, you signed the bill, Mr. President."

Holy. Cow.

I _thought_ that whole report sounded familiar. I was saying, "this is _exactly_ like that Deb Swisher play. All the stuff she described in it."

Synanon, I think, was known in its day to intimidate people who put its doings in the press. Good for your father for writing a report about it. I can see why you're proud of him.

It reminds me of a group called Synanon, that was active in California in the 70s and 80s, until it was shut down.

I thought exactly the same thing. Not surprised that there's a connection.

Synanon, I think, was known in its day to intimidate people who put its doings in the press.

Most infamously, the rattlesnake in the mailbox--I believe it was the editor of the Point Reyes Light who was the lucky recipient of that particular fraternity prank. (The PRL won a Pulitzer for their coverage of Synanon.)

LB

WOW, thanks for dishing up this! Why isn't this in the MSM? It is too weird to be believed.

How do these sickos get to where they are? Where are the adults and the normal people?

We are living in such a weird ass world... it's hard to believe... but look out your window and everything looks "normal"... and Bush's numbers are going up.

Love ya LB... Keep it up... Thanks for being you!

Synanon, I think, was known in its day to intimidate people who put its doings in the press.

Most infamously, the rattlesnake in the mailbox--I believe it was the editor of the Point Reyes Light who was the lucky recipient of that particular fraternity prank. (The PRL won a Pulitzer for their coverage of Synanon.)

Yes, the rattlesnake in the mailbox. I seem to remember reading about that in Rolling Stone. I didn't know the Point Reyes Light was the newspaper! Kind of chuffed that Point Reyes would win a Pulitzer Prize. Bolinas rules!

Oh, although excuse me, to be accurate, it's the descendant of Synanon, not Synanon itself, that Lindsay's father wrote about. Still, though. What a frightening thing that must be, for a kid who's caught up in it, and feels unable to resist it, considering that he or she has probably run afoul of the law.

This is good fodder for the Lamont campaign. You would think that Lieberman would be savvy enough to recognize the downside in fraternizing with the likes of Sembler. Dumbass Joe.

Beautiful. You just can’t make this shit up. Gov. Jeb calling Betty Sembler “ambassadorable” is just too priceless.

Ambassador to Italy. Italy. Think about that.

This is why calling the Bush crowd “clowns” is not just hyperbole: in this case red rubber noses and giant shoes are actually more dignified than diplomatic pinstripes.

Well we know that most often, Ambassadorships to places in the third world are given to life Foreign Service/State Department officials, whereas often, cush places like London, Paris or Rome are given to friends of Boss (almost makes me want to be a hired Phantom-points spewer or $1,000,000 Bush donor).

--Is it worth mentioning that Bush appointed this asshole as ambassador to Italy (2001 - 2005), even though that sick fuck can't speak fucking Italian?!?--

Name me one President in the past thirty years or more that hasn't appointed ambassadors to countries who don't speak the language?

Oh, yeah, all of them. That's how they reward big contributors. Republicans. And Democrats. And not just countries like Laos or Azerbaijan.

I'm shocked to hear that there's gambling here!!

Oh, yeah, all of them. That's how they reward big contributors. Republicans. And Democrats.

Oh yeah, that makes it all better, i.e., the "everyone else has done it so why can't we?" Did all the presidents of the past 30 years also name Embassy buildings in foreign countries after these ambassadors that couldn't speak the language? If it were just one or a few appointments from Bush like this then I wouldn't have mentioned it, but this speaks to a larger issue of rampant cronyism, which this administration is infamous for engaging in, even when compared to previous administrations. Did Clinton appoint a horse lawyer to be in charge of FEMA? Did Carter or Clinton award jobs and contracts to rebuild a nation based entirely on party loyalty instead of know-how? And back to the main point: The guy is a sick miscreant who ran a for-profit organization based on brainwashing and torturing kids. Have all the presidents of the past 30 years given ambassadorial duties to guys like him too, Phantom?

Stick to comparing the Koran to Mein Kampf, just like your buddy Bill O'Reilly does.

I have to side with Phantom on this one - political corruption isn't something out of the ordinary. An honest politician is one who hasn't been caught.

That said, Sembler is a psychopathic criminal.

The minute we start stereotyping all politicians we might as well stop voting completely. Besides, we're talking several degrees of variation here. I'm not a huge Clinton fan, but if he did half the shit that Bush has done he'd be in prison. I'm not naive; which is why I said that a few crony appointments wouldn't have raised my hackles, but with Bush this is part and parcel of a larger issue. The fact that this scumbag is still a player in the Republican Party without raising an eyebrow in the power circles says a lot about how bad the Bush White House is.

This IS worse than Clinton, even with all his failings. Vince Foster conspiracy theorists need not reply. Take that shit to LGF, where it will be treated as gospel truth.

>Did Clinton appoint a horse lawyer to be in charge of FEMA?

Very true John Lucid, no Clinton didn't, and Clinton's FEMA showed up and fucking did something instead of sticking their fingers up their asses and letting thousands of people go without food, water or medical attention.

Come to think of it, name all the buildings you want after this guy, if there must be cronyism for the corrupt (perhaps the ambassadorship will keep him from making a loonies-running-the-asylum rehab place), but just save us from the corrupt cronies in places where they can let people die.

I'm shocked to hear that there's gambling here!!

Well, ok, Phantom does have a point. Ambassadorships have traditionally been handed out to party loyalist hacks probably back to George Washington. But you’d think that Dubya would have wanted to show a bit more respect to his pal, Mussolini admirer Berlusconi than to send him a jar of tapeworms like Sembler. Just for once, it might be nice if a nation of 58 million people with an economic footprint about the size of France or the UK were accorded a tiny bit of deference in the form of an ambassador that knows the difference between manicotti and his asshole.

The only thing really surprising in this story is that Sembler hasn’t been caught didling one of his teenage victims. Usually, when you combine someone with the ethical instincts of a scorpion with bunch of terrified, shell-shocked teens, you get lots of pervy action. Perhaps Sembler is better than that, but we should hardly be shocked to hear another shoe drop.

Forcing teenagers to spank one another sounds pretty pervy to me. But then, modern conservatism itself has no shortage of issues around power, authority, and sexuality, and none of these kinds of revelations surprise me anymore.

Great report, Lindsay.

And please, no more of the fake worldliness act. After the debacles at FEMA, the former industry lobbyists infesting the EPA and (more than anything) the brainless, snot-nosed Young Republicans who were allowed to plunder and destroy the Coalition Provisional Authority, its pretty clear we're in the presence of leaders who view our government and our tax money as their own personal toy box.

--And please, no more of the fake worldliness act.--
I'm shocked that there is gambling here! We need the best possible appointments to all important positions, like the guy McGreevey appointed as head of security for New Jersey.

Let not any trolls point out inconvenient facts.

An honest politician is one who hasn't been caught indeed.

I was going to say "Synanon's part of the Church of Scientology, isn't it?" but, no, that's Narconon (which is also not Narcotics Anonymous, aka Narc-Anon, which as far as I know is just a typical 12-step group).

It's hard to keep all these names straight.

Oh, wow: Linsday, I've been reading your blog and had no idea you were related to Dr. Barry Beyerstein, whom I interviewed a while back about the zombie-like teenagers he saw roaming the halls of STRAIGHT. I finally published an article this year after years of trying to get a magazine interested in the subject.

It's a pretty incredible story, and I encourage people to check out Maia Szalavitz's book on the subject, Help At Any Cost. Some really Dickensian characters emerge from the sordid stories she tells of the teen rehab industry...phony priests, crackpot mind control gurus, amazing survival stories, and the Charles Bronsonian figure of Richard Bradbury, the nothing-to-lose whistleblower who has been taking the law into his own hands after being abused at Mel Sembler's Florida franchise. (He's the guy who stole Mel's penis pump.)

Phantom: There's a difference between hills and mountains, and there's a difference between functional democracies and banana republics. We expect politicians to balance self-interest with some sense of the responsibities of power- this adminstration has no sense of responsibility, and an endless sense of entitlement. The record speaks for itself.

Cass

I could get into further specific debate on this, but won't. We all have the tendency see the "other side"'s flaws with 20/20 vision, while excusing the sins of our guys.

Clinton had a different set of paymasters, coming from the trial lawyers, unions, and those from different industries or whatever. But he was dirty and Hillary is dirty, and GB the first was dirty and Reagan was dirty and Saint Jimmy Carter was dirty, going back for a very long time.

It ain't hills and mountains. Its Kilamanjaro and Mount Everest and Mount McKinley and Mauna Loa.

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