eye on Pinellas County: February 2005

eye on Pinellas County

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Congressman C.W. "Bill" Young sends more pork to Sembler's Treasure Island, white, Republican elite

Look at this map. It shows Pinellas County's beautiful, exclusive beach communities along the Gulf of Mexico. Townships like Treasure Island where Mel and Betty Sembler live; Madera Beach where Miller Newton lives; and, to the north, Belleair Beach. Also notice the little bridges, called causeways, that take Tampa Bay's elite out to their waterside homes. Last year, US Congressman C.W. "Bill" Young, who heads Congress' Appropriation Committee, got $50 million approved to upgrade the Treasure Island Causeway. [Mayor Mary Maloof had even written a letter to Mel Semble in Rome. She says she wanted, "to see what he can help us do with his contacts in Washington."] This year Young got another $34 million approved to build a new causeway for Belleair Beach! He said this year's hurricanes underscore the importance of an evacuation route for the beaches!

In 1989 Young gave an almost laughable endorsement for Sembler when Sembler bought his Australian ambassadorship. A reporter once asked St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker who's the most powerful man in St. Petersburg. He responded Bill Young followed by Mel Sembler. In 2002 Young visited with Sembler at Mel's Villa Taverna in Rome. Young got just $3 million for Betty Sembler's Operation Par. Meanwhile Mel Sembler and the NAACP's Daryl Rouson have teamed up build a $ 5 million Kash n' Karry supermarket in the economically deprived Midtown section of St. Petersburg. [The city donated the land.]

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Florida Holocaust Museum's Awards Banquet protested for association with those tied to Straight

(Story at 2/12/2005:2300 EST) This just in. Our newsroom just got a call at 2300. The protesters wound up at some party and called to say there is a man there who started talking about a program he had been in that sounded to them like Straight. One of the protesters asked him if it was Straight. No was the reply; it was Second Chance. Second Chance is a second-generation Straight with a Christian theme in Memphis, Tennessee started by Reverend Scotty Cassidy. It is believed that Rev. Cassidy was formerly director of Straight-Dallas. We have little data on his program and may have found a foot into unraveling yet another layer of theStraights' onion.

(Story consolidation of reports at 2/12/2005: 1845, 1911, 2000; 2/13/2005: 1000) The picket is over and the protesters are enjoying a cold beer in a nearby pub. The weather was beautiful. There were 7 or 8 protesters--one drove down from Virginia. One potential protester had a sprained back and could not show, another could not get off from work. They lined up along the sidewalk shown in the picture on the right. The photo on the left is from last year's event. The large sign was used once again. Cars had to drive along the sidewalk before turning into the parking lot. They were stacked up and had to stop right in front of the sign. Elderly people in their black ties put on their glasses to read the signs.

A woman said she had to drop off her child but would be back. She returned and said I want information to read. A old man walked up and said can't you forgive someone for something they did 30 years ago when now they're doing all this good--especially since they've apologized. A protester told him--they have never apologized. A man in his 20s walked up and started talking. He was hostile. The protesters explained to him why they were there. He left unconvinced, still hostile. Another man in his 20s came up. He seemed to understand why the protesters were there. Before the event started a teenage girl came out of the pavilion and talked to the survivors. She said she agreed with them. Three teenage boys walked over from the building. They talked to the protesters and left saying they agreed with the survivors. A protester told us he was moved by their understanding.

The protesters received several one finger salutes; a few cursed them. A car U-turned, came back, and asked for fliers. Police cruisers were placed at each end of the street. A man in a tan suit named Greg took license numbers. The protesters think he was a cop. He asked one of the protesters, "who is in charge," but was told no one. This seemed to upset him. Please stayed tuned for the latest updates from this breaking story.

WHY PROTEST. See the previous post on this blog for the reason why there was a protest.

Protest flier

Protest photos

Interact with the protesters on fornits.

The Florida Holocaust Museum's Annual Awards Banquet will be protested Feb 12 for its association with those tied to Straight

The photo is of protesters at last year's Florida Holocaust Museum's Annual Awards banquet.

Why would anybody other than a neo-Nazi protest a Holocaust museum? The systematic destruction of the Jews in Nazi Germany is the single most horrific program of crime this planet has ever witnessed. We are in complete agreement with any and all persons, media and institutions which seek to tell the story of what happened to the Jews in World War II--including the Florida Holocaust Museum.

But the protesters do have an issue with the management of one, and only one, of these institutions--the Florida Holocaust Museum. As dastardly as Straight is, it's crimes could never compare to those that occurred in The Holocaust which destroyed the body as well as the spirit. Nevertheless, Straight, Inc. is guilty of many of the same human right abuses and civil liberties violations as the Nazis.

The Florida Holocaust Museum was founded by Walter Loebenberg, formerly president of Straight Foundation, now called Drug Free America Foundation (DFAF). He is still on the board of DFAF. Straight's former national clinical director, Father Doctor Cassian Newton (AKA Reverend Doctor Miller Newton) is a member of a DFAF subsidiary. [See The Miller Newton Story. See Newton and team settle for $11 million. Straight founders Melvin and Betty Sembler and others associated with them or Straight have been or are museum board members. Last year the museum thumbed its collective nose at the protesters by selecting Bruce Epstein, MD as interim museum director (he was another Straight board member) and by selecting Mel Sembler's son for its annual award. How will it antognize the crowd this year? Read now The compeling case to protest the Florida Holocaust Museum, and why the media will not cover such protests for the justification to protest the Florida Holocaust Museum's "Life Awards" banquet on February 12. If you would like more information on the protest contact this e-mail.

Related links: 2004 awards banquet protest , 2004 protest at the museum.

A La Carte Event Pavilion
4050 Dana Shores Drive, Tampa
Feb. 12, 2005
5:30PM - 730PM
Contact: email MAP

--Holocaust Museum protest endorsed by St. Pete for Peace link
--Washington DC's Independent Media Center on Holocaust protest link
--Tallahassee Independent Media Center on Holocaust protest link
--Italian Independent Media Center on Holocaust protest link
--Israel Independent Media Center on Holocaust protest link

Friday, February 11, 2005

Mel, Betty, Herman, John, Eagle Point Christian Academy and name changing

In 1992 Straight of Orlando closed. That very day Straight Orlando's executive director Michael Scaletti took over Straight's clients in a new program but in the very same facility that he called SAFE, Inc. When Virginia authorities yanked Straight's license in northern Virginia for abusing kids there Straight hopped the border and reopened in Southern Maryland. Cincinnati officials closed Straight in 1986 but today a second-generation Straight continues to operate out of the old Straight faciltiy in Milford, Ohio. In 1989 state health authorities closed Reverend Doctor Miller Newton's Kids of Southern California for abusing kids. The day Kids closed Straight took over the clients under the name Straight of Southern California. Within a year authorities had run Straight out of the state. In 1988 prosecutors in Bergen County New Jersey raided Newton's Kids of Bergen County and removed a bunch of kids. Whereupon Miller Newton changed the name of his program to Kids of North Jersey and moved to neighboring Hudson County. When he suffered $11 million in civil suits for abusing kids there, Miller Newton changed his name to Father Doctor Cassian Newton and retired to his Madeira Beach, Florida seaside home, but bought some adjoining properties and turned them into a chapel.

Just so Mel and Betty know they're not the only ones doing it, in 1988 Mississippi welfare officials raided Herman Fountain's Bethel Home for Children and removed 72 "abused and neglected children." Two years later a judge shut the place down. Later Herman reopened under the name Bethel Academy for Boys. But Bethel was cited for abuses too. Now John Fountain (Herman's son) runs the place and has changed the name again to Eagle Point Christian Academy.

Maybe it's time for Mel and Betty to have a little name change of their own. How 'bout something regal like William and Mary Sembler? Or perhaps something red hot and spicy like Anthony and Cleopatra Sembler or even Romeo and Juliet. Or even something out of this world--Mork and Mindy Sembler. No. No. It's going to have to be Jack and Jill. story

Related stories:
ABC news on faith-based in Florida
TSCD on faith-based

If David Miscaviage can go to his deposition as Admiral Farragut, then Keith Henson can go as Bozo the Clown.

Pinellas County's two biggest cults--Scientology™ and Straight--, and the Semblers finally answer their first set of interrogatories

The other day I was reading a newspaper series about a popular cult. In the first segment the writer wrote that during the course of his investigation he had found criticisms of the group and that these criticisms included that the group can tear families apart, that it even pressures some members to sever relations with family members critical of the group. That it uses deceptive practices and some recruitment methods lack professional credibility. That it seeks legitimacy through government coalitions and that it had even wooed city officials in an attempt to escape its reputation as a cult. That the mayor had declared a day in honor of the cult. That jail authorities tried to bring the group's drug-related program to the jail. That it practices intimidation and harassment and that it has a " history of using lawsuits to silence critics." That it is costly and that it opposes psychiatry.

Well I thought the writer was talking about Pinellas County, Florida and Melvin and Betty Sembler and their Straight program--you probably did too. But he wasn't. He was talking about L. Ron Hubbard and another cult--the Church of Scientology™ in Buffalo, New York. [Read Mark Sommer's excellent four part series in The Buffalo News, Jan 30 - Feb. 2, 2005, Part 1: Enlightenment's dark side, Part 2: Being in, breaking out, Part Three: Helping spread the word, Part Four: Outside critics are unacceptable.]

Like I say the series wasn't about Mel, Betty and Straight, but it easily could have been. America's First Couple of National Drug Policy was in the news though. The darlings of demand reduction finally turned in their interrogatories for PumpGate. (See plaintiff's answers to first set of interrogatories.) They were a few days late but the framers of the Constitution did allow for certain automatic time extensions of a judge's order for dukes, duchesses, earles, knights, ambassadors and others who "pay a little more." To me their collective answer to question 15 lays out the whole of PumpGate.
Q15. "Please state your understanding of what has motivated Richard Bradbury to picket your house."

Answer. "His effort to extort monies from us. His sadistic desire to inflict pain on people. His desire to avoid responsibility for his own actions."
You know, when my daughter was a little girl, whenever she pointed an accusatory finger at me I would tell her, "Honey, whenever you point a finger at someone three fingers are pointing back at you." Truth be known Mel and Betty Sembler founded and operated a juvenile drug rehab program that extorted money from clients' parents; that used a quack, sadistic therapy that intentionally inflicted pain on its captives; that ran at every turn to avoid responsibility for what it had done. Mel and Betty never mentioned Straight in the entirety of their answers even though everyone, especially Mel and Betty, knows that many people, including Ray Bradbury, have protested the Sembler home, venues and other interests because of what Straight did to them all those years ago. I wonder if their answer to Q15, by ommission, is tantamount to perjury--or does it just border on perjury. This case is about Straight and nothing but Straight. The Semblers know that if Straight gets in, there's not an honest person who could be on a jury who would not find their Straight program reprehensible.

In question 7 the Semblers admit that they told several people about his prostrate cancer. So much for invasion of that privacy. But they do affirm they told no one that he uses the medical device. (ADDED BONUS: Of course Mr. Bradbury did not ask the question, but their answer to Q7 amounts to a voluntary admission that Mr. Sembler has not been unfaithful to his wife since he purchased the medical device [or devices, if there have been others]. Quite possibly DNA testing can confirm this. )

In other questions the Sembler's say they have not sought medical attention to deal with their emotional distress. So how does one tell a magistrate, "judge, he's made me emotionally disturbed and I am suffering from $1 million in emotional damages."? How can a court assess the extent of harm done and determine a dollar award for damages without supporting expert medical testimony. If there is this damage, then why haven't they sought medical help?

I am reminded of an old black and white English film (Marlene Dietrich may have been in it). It was about a person who had accused another of having been a doctor in a Nazi concentration camp. The doctor sued for libel. In court the doctor prevailed that his reputation had been soiled by the claim and the judge's instruction to the jury told them that they had to find the defendant guilty. Complicating the matter for the plaintiff however, though the defendant could not actually prove beyond a shadow that the doctor had been in the SS, his attorney had convinced the jury that the doctor had been a monster in the SS. Required to find for the plaintiff, the jury did. But the punishment they recommended--one pound! If "Straight" gets in, the Sembler's lose even if they win.

Sounds to us like, from their own answers, their case is weak, regardless. Sounds to us like they've already lost. They claim that when Bradbury placed the ad on eBay, Bradbury was over the limit. They had Judge Logan shut Bradbury up and then their son served on a diner committee with the judge. A US ambassador with a dark past who is being picketed all over the place for that black past sues a former employee for placing for sale his discarded penis pump--and he demands it back! The St. Pete Times might be in Sembler's vast Republican pockets and quash the story, but a story like that has to sell. Sembler has Bradbury gagged and hogged-tied but PumpGate is all over the Internet in blogs, web pages, discussion forums--and in languages that we don't even know what they are. And now it's in print. For 17 long years Melvin and Betty Sembler ran a program that intentionally inflicted emotional distress (and even physical pain on some) on thousands of kids and now they want to sue one of those former kids for intentional infliction of emotional distress because he dared fight back. How dare them.

If David Miscaviage can go to his deposition as Admiral Farragut, then Keith Henson can go as Bozo the Clown.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Oakton Institute to Florida's Office of the Attorney General: leave our whores in Pinellas County alone

Page 1. So you thought the first time Trevor Aaronson crossed paths with Betty Sembler was when he wrote Suffering Together last December for New Times, a story about alleged abuses in a second-generation Straight in Lakeworth, Fl. called Growing Together. Well guess what, he thought so too--and you're both wrong. St. Pete's hookers used to transact business on N Fort Harrison Avenue until the vice squad put a sting out and arrested a bunch of them. But that did not deter these ladies from providing their services. They just moved down to 34th Street. Aaronson wrote about St. Pete vice squad officer Sandy Minor and his cohorts who have setup stings on 34th Street. And that's when Aaronson found out that the state legislature had stepped in. State Representative Frank Farkas (R), a chiropractor from Pinellas County, introduced a bill to the 2002 legislative session that is sure to end the scourge of prostitution that has plagued the sunshine state since Ponce de Leon first propositioned Pocohonas on the sandy banks of Lake Kissimmee.

It's quite an epitaph for a mere bone manipulator to solve a problem that has plagued mankind since before recorded history. The reasoning is that prostitutes don't sell their goods because it might feel good while making money at the same time. They don't do it because they can make as much in one evening tricking as they can clerking all week at 7/11. And they don't do it because they are damn good at what they do and it's the one thing they do better than anything else. No. Farkas said, "When we know that 90 percent of these prostitutes have substance abuse addiction, we know that jail is not the answer." So almost all prostitutes are drug addicts and the cost of drugs is so high they must sell their bodies to buy the drugs. Now Farkas didn't say, "therefore we must legalize drugs to make the price drop." What he did say is this, "we need treatment." [See Soliciting Hope by Trevor Aaronson in Weekly Planet and Prostitutes will get treatment, not jail by Leanora Minai in SPT]

Frank Farkas is a member of the House's powerful Health Care Appropriations Committee. In 2002 he proposed bill HB415 asking for a statewide initiative to force prostitutes to get drug rehabilitation treatment upon a second conviction in stead of jail. He proposed the program be called Project HOPE. The House agreed and state Senator Lesley Miller (D) from neighboring Hillsborough County sponsored the bill (SB 570) in Florida's Senate. The bill was passed but there wasn't enough money available in 2002 to implement it statewide so the legislature set aside $100,000 for Pinellas County and $100,000 for Hillsborough County to setup pilot programs. Aaronson wrote that Officer Minor (citing that both Farkas and Miller were up for reelection) had said about Project HOPE, "It's totally political. It'll take a lot more (money) than that."

Page 2. Well Officer Minor you are only 1/4 right. Project Hope is not only a political solution to a 10,000 year old crime, but it is also a business venture. And while 2002 was an election year for Farkas and Miller, there are other forces driving the politics as well.

Frank Farkas ran for and won a seat in the state House of Representatives in 1998 and has won reelection every two years since. The Semblers have been generous to Farkas' campaigns. Their contributions include--1996: Betty Sembler - $250, son Brent Sembler - $100; 1998: Betty - $100, Brent - $250; 1999: Betty - $250; 2000: Brent - $500, son Gregroy Sembler $100; 2002: Betty - $500. Actually Project HOPE was first implemented in October 1996 by Operation PAR in Pinellas County. PAR's Project HOPE has received support from the St. Petersburg Police Department and the county. The $100,000 given to Pinellas County by HB415 went to Operation PAR. The $100,000 slated for Hillsborough County went to a drug rehabilitation there called DACCO. Betty Sembler is on the board of directors for Operation PAR. And she is not the only former Straight officer tied to Operation PAR. In fact, the infiltration of Operation PAR by former Straight officials is so pandemic that an excellent case can be made that Operation PAR is now the drug treatment arm of Betty Sembler's Drug Free America Foundation (DFAF) [formerly known as Straight Foundation]. Operation PAR won the 1996 Howard McGlasson Grant of $8,045 from the Pinellas County Community Foundation for its Project Hope. In 1996 the St. Petersburg Police Department and Operation PAR, Inc. received a $60,000 grant for the project from the Pinellas County Substance Abuse Advisory Board.

Project HOPE stands for Healthy Options Promoting Esteem. We find it particulary objectionable and hypocritical that for 17 years Betty Sembler operated a juvenile drug rehabilitation program known as Straight, Inc. that uses an unproven, experimental therapy that intentionally lowers a person's self esteem (in some cases to the point where kids have suicidal ideations or they resort to carving on their bodies) and then attempts to rebuild their self esteem in a new, positive straight image--and now her Operation PAR is working to rebuild self esteem for prostitutes by weaning them off drugs.

Three Strikes and you are out. Prostitution was just a misdemeanor in the land down under before Rep. Farkas took charge. But not anymore. For now on if you or your "john" get free educational help from the state in lieu of going to jail and subsequently get busted a third time, you will be charged with a third-degree felony! In December 1994 Renee Hughes says she got into a car with a man to have sex so she could buy drugs. She says he hit her in the head with a hammer or crowbar. That's a felony too. Renee spent the next month in a hospital. We just feel that what Renee did just does not rise to the level of what her assailant did. The stigma of a felony conviction harms a person's ego and self esteem in untold ways; its effects are almost always irreversible. Why do that to an unfortunate person. Perhaps Rep. Farkas should stick to bone massaging and leave fucking to the experts.

The other day one of Charlie Crist's lieutenants got ripped off in a hotel room in Tampa. Charlie Crist is Florida's Attorney General. Seems the assistant attorney general called a couple of escort girls up to his room. He says that while he was being escorted by the duo in the privacy of his room a man knocked on the door. He opened the door and was gassed with pepper spray. The assistant AG then says the trio robbed him and absconded with $500 of his money. The AG office has announced they are investigating. Investigating what? Besides, Farkas' bill requires that "johns" attend six educational classes to raise awareness of sexually transmitted diseases. Will the assistant AG be required to attend these classes and will the state pay for his classes? The Oakton Institute has this message for the Office of Attorney General. Leave our whores in Pinelas County alone. Get your lassies in Tallahassee. And now you know the rest of the story.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Sticker price for ambassadorships dropping

They don't get it. You have a president and an administration that does what they say they are going to do. Ambassador "Cowboy Bob" Sembler clowning around at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club, May 28, 2003, fielding a question from the floor about the European perception that "jingoistic cowboys" run the US State Department.

Michael Crowley, a senior editor at The New Republic, was shocked to report in the Dec. 2004 Reader's Digest that George W. Bush named George Argyros to be ambassador to Spain even though he did not speak Spanish. He notes that Argyros did ontribute $100,000 to the Bush-Cheney inaugural committee. But we're not shocked. After all, we know that in 1988 George H. W. Bush, the President's daddy, nominated Joseph Zappala to be ambassador to Spain even though Mr. Zappala claimed to be a co-founder of Straight, Inc. (a chain of juvenile drug rehabilitation programs that had been accussed of child abuse all over the country); his sister was a convicted cocaine dealer; and he was but a high school graduate who didn't speak Spanish either! But Joe Zappala had donated $126,000 to them Republicans. (Bush I named Peter Secchia, a $100K donor from Michigan, as his choice for ambassador to Italy even though he was not fluent in Italian. When asked what he hoped to accomplish in Italy, Secchia reputedly answered, "I’m looking for a big-titted woman".) Homeland Security should really be concerned about what information political buffoons leave laying around on their kitchen tables or throw out in their trash.

Related stories:
Bush puts friends in high places, Christian Science Monitor
Rumor says Ambassador Sembler and others to be fired, World Peace Hearld
White House for Sale

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Museum director says no irony in Jackie Robinson display. We say there is.

In April 1998 Stephen Goldman who was then director of The Florida Holocaust Museum said, "There's no irony in it being here. Our lessons are those of tolerance and breaking down of barriers." He was talking about hosting "Stealing Home: How Jackie Robinson Changed America" an exhibit dedicated to the late, great baseball hall-of-famer Jackie Robinson who on April 14, 1947 became the first black man to play major league baseball. Robinson started with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The exhibit had started the year before at the Simeon Wisenthal Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and had traveled its way around the country to various museums and ballparks. Director Goldman went on to tell a story about former Detroit Tigers star (and fellow Jew) Hank Greenberg. In 1947 when Greenberg was playing with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Goldman had said, he was the first opposing player to encourage Robinson. Goldman concluded his story saying, "Just as blacks and Jews went through the civil rights movement together, Robinson and Greenberg did much to break down those barriers."

Well, Mr. Goldman, Jackie Robinson and Hank Greenberg did break down barriers and it was only fitting that the Jackie Robinson Exhibit started at the Simon Wisenthal Museum, but we think you misspoke when you said, "There's no irony in it being here." Here at the Florida Holocaust Museum, that is. And this is why:

In 1978 Florida’s Bureau of Criminal Justice Planning and Assistance released a report on Straight finding that in its first 18 months of operation Straight had enrolled 450 youths but only one had been black. Five years later Straight's national clinical director admitted that out of 260 young clients at Straight-St. Petersburg there were no blacks! In a sworn affidavit made by a Straight Foundation board member on January 17, 1991 he stated, "...research has shown that over the last 3 years there has been a decline in Straight’s market, to-wit: middle and upper income children involved in drugs..." Straight just did not target blacks. It targeted whites whose parents could better afford to pay its steep fees. Straight Foundation president Walter Loebenberg founded your museum, Straight founders Melvin and Betty Sembler are on (or have been on) the board of directors, along with Jay Synder and Dr. Bruce Epstein. Dr. Epstein has even been the interim director of your museum. Not only is their Straight program guilty of committing many of the same human rights violations that the Nazis are accused of committing but Straight was a racial institution that targeted white kids only. It was indeed ironic that your museum, under its then oversight, hosted an exhibit to baseball great Jackie Robinson. [Source: St. Petersburg Times, Apr. 4, 1998, pg. 3.B]
Read about the alleged treatment of Straight-St. Petersburg's first black kid on Fornits (NOTE: This story is unsubstantiated.)