Monday, October 27, 2008

Access Denied

My girlfriend Anne recently took a business trip to South Bend, Ind. While staying at a Hyatt, she decided to use one of the hotel’s public computers in the lobby to check out the offerings of the upcoming gay film festival back here in Seattle.

The computer didn’t cooperate. Was a leprechaun from nearby Notre Dame bouncing on the keypad when she looked away? No such luck.

She’s agreed to tell readers about the incident by answering my laser-focused questions.

Leslie: So why didn’t you take me on this trip? Wait, I suspect that isn’t completely relevant. What words did you type into Google on the Hyatt’s public computer?

Anne: Three Dollar Bill + Seattle + Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

Leslie: What’s Three Dollar Bill?

Anne: The name of the organization that puts on the queer film festival. You know the expression, "queer as a three dollar bill."

Leslie: Intimately. What happened after you typed in those words?

Anne: The "SiteCoach" content filter gave me a pop-up message that read, "Access Denied. SiteCoach thinks this website contains content harmful to a young public. The page was blocked! Reason: Forbidden Keyword Lesbian!"

Leslie: I don’t know which is worse, that lesbian is a forbidden word or this outfit’s need to shriek about it using exclamation points. Did the pop-up say anything else?

Anne: "Please provide us a brief comment, if you believe that this webpage has been blocked wrongly."

Leslie: Did you provide a comment?

Anne: I told SiteCoach that, "I am 50 years old, a lesbian, and I am not being harmed."

Leslie: Considering you’re also menopausal, that was a rather restrained comment. Then what?

Anne: I asked the desk staff at the hotel if they could unblock the site so I could print the film festival’s schedule. The staff said no one had complained about a site being blocked and that they didn’t know how to assist me.

Leslie: If it’s true you’re the first to complain, you deserve a medal. For heroic carping. Anything else happen?

Anne: The guy on the computer next to me then asked if my "porn" was being blocked. I told him no—and that the computer evidently didn’t like the word lesbian. His eyes widened and he said the Internet should be free and so should America.

Leslie: A hopeful moment in the heartland?

Anne: I couldn’t tell if he was being sincere or lascivious.

Leslie: Oh. Shame. I can’t believe this contention that any lesbian-related site "contains content harmful to a young public." What a blanket indictment. In fact, that indictment requires two blankets.

Anne: True. Do you still need me? I have to go hunt and gather (a.k.a. get groceries), because you do eat a lot.

Leslie: Return to the topic, please.

Anne: Okay. I’ve been back home for a while now, but the whole experience still chaps my hide.

Leslie: Just the idea that in 2008 lesbian is a forbidden keyword. What message does that send? That anything gay is as savory as rotten mackerel.

Anne: Blocking the word lesbian makes me worry about the well-being of young people. When I was coming to terms with my homosexuality in my teens, I would have given anything to be able to Google the word lesbian and know that I wasn’t alone.

Leslie: Amen.

Anne: That computer, it wasn’t so much an example of artificial intelligence as artificial ignorance.

Leslie: Good line. Just so you know, I might steal it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Crazed Christian Candidate

When it seems like the USA is saturated with Christian fire-and-brimstone folks categorically consigning gays to hell, take heart: Other countries are stuck with them, too.

Canadian David Popescu is running for office and running amok in Sudbury, Ontario. He has just announced that he wants gays killed. How's that for an inspiring platform?

Popescu, in his early 60s, has run in a passel of elections at the municipal, provincial and federal levels, always earning just a smattering of votes. He's known as a fringe candidate with stark religious opinions. This year he's running for Canada's parliament, which is why he was included in a federal candidates' discussion at Sudbury Secondary School.

The high school students got an education in just how daft adults can be.

Popescu blamed environmental damage and economic travails on society's wickedness, and said "God would hurt" anyone who had an abortion. When a student asked his view of gay marriage, which has been legal in Canada since 2005, he responded gays should be executed.

During a phone interview later that day with the Sudbury Star, the candidate did anything but backpedal. "A young man asked me what I think of homosexual marriages and I said I think homosexuals should be executed," Popescu said. "My whole reason for running is the Bible and the Bible couldn't be more clear on that point."

No wishy-washy politician here. This fella sticks to his guns—or guillotines or gallows or whatever form of execution he favors.

On Oct. 2, two days after the candidates' discussion, Popescu spoke from Sudbury with a Toronto radio show host whose other guest was Helen Kennedy, the executive director of Egale Canada, the country's prominent gay rights group.

Sounds like the big-time to me. Perhaps Popescu realized he'd accidentally or on purpose found a way to get attention from the major media. He should've thought of this execution thing sooner!

After the radio show, Kennedy recounted it for the Toronto Sun. The fun began with the host John Oakley asking Popescu "if in fact that he said what he said, and he said 'yes,' that he had said it, that all gays should be executed and public execution by government is what we should be looking at."

Sounds like the Canadian government will need a new Minister of Gay Executions. The number of bureaucrats required will be simply astounding.

Kennedy said that Oakley then noted that "Helen Kennedy represents a gay and lesbian organization, Egale Canada, do you think Helen Kennedy should be executed? And he said 'yes.'"

After the show, Kennedy filed a hate crimes complaint with the Toronto police. The Sudbury police had already launched an investigation into what Popescu said to the high school students, so the candidate quickly notched two hate crimes investigations. If he had started this sort of hate-mongering earlier, he could've tied up every police force in Ontario.

Popescu told The Canadian Press he isn't fretting over possible prosecution. "I can defend myself very well," he said. "It doesn't bother me."

He also said he stands by the statements that have been attributed to him. The man has been given ample opportunities to deny having called for gays to be killed. On each occasion he fesses right up. The next time a reporter asks, I expect Popescu to respond, "Yes, I said it! Believe me already! Now let me tell you how Satan goes to Toronto Maple Leafs games hidden in the Zamboni!"

Police and Ontario's attorney general now get to sort out whether Popescu's words constitute an infringement of Canada's hate crimes statutes. And Popescu will discover whether advocating mass murder gets him in good with voters.