Wednesday, May 9, 2007

"In Soviet Russia, Hyman busts you. "

For those of you who haven't seen the slash dot commentary, the fark commentary, or the digg comments, I'll tell you that they're gruesome at times and honest at others. I'm disappointed at how many people would resort to personal attacks. A great many insisted that I was power tripping, and a few even said I had a "big fish in a small pond" complex.-- Manhattan is an island, not a pond. It might not be the biggest island in the world, but it's a pretty important one if you ask me. I don't think the important parts of this discussion should be about either myself or Ashley: it's not a "who is the bigger bitch" contest. Regardless, some people seem mistaken about some facts about me that I'd like to set straight.

About ME
I went to college at Boston University, graduated 2002. I grew up in working class Baltimore, and now bartend (despite my college degree) so that I can spend my time working on my art. I am a realist painter and I do some installation projects as well. In college I did try my hand at poetry slam, and was the champion of Boston's Cantab Lounge for over a year, and a member of the Cantab's 2001 and 2002 national teams.

What all of this was about before the DMCA Notice
My blog was about my life. Take it or leave it- kids who bring fake ID's into the bar and attempt to be served are putting me in danger. My way of diffusing that danger has been to post the confiscated ID's for the amusement of my readers (before yesterday "my readers" meant my family and friends and some patrons from the bar).

What is the tension that would cause me to post these ID's?

The relationship between NYU, the surrounding community, and the community board needs great repair. The east village has gone through a stage of gentrification, and ended up as an "east village" themed section of New York. The streets that were once home to countless artists and poets, Tompkin Square park riots, a thriving NYC punk rock scene, and squatters, have started to become luxury condos and more NYU dorms. While CBGB's couldn't keep it's lease, their T-Shirt shop sprung up on St. Mark's Street selling their garb without a problem.

The Community Board can try to limit new liquor licenses and the police can try to find ways to eliminate old licenses, but this will cause a tension in the service industry. A lot of money is being spend commercializing an area that was for years residential and dangerous, but now is very fertile ground for development and bars. NYU is purchasing and using a lot of the area, and their students are inflating the rents in order to be close to their classes. Understandable. The people who have lived here for years are fighting the weekend noise, the public drunkenness, the increase in rents, and the changes which are replacing the character of the neighborhood with chain stores. Also, understandable.

I'm trying to give a framework for those of you who aren't from or familiar with this part of downtown New York City. It is silly to think a place will never change. But change should be approached responsibly, organically, and people should respect each other enough to work together-- that was always the way the east village residents tried to function.

The police have been doing sting operations, especially on bars that aren't friendly to underage drinking. Lately beer bars, like the one I work in, have been temporarily shut down, and suddenly the fear of not IDing the right people has begun to spread.

I post the fakes I confiscate from the bar. Some argue that this is an extreme measure for the underage drinker to endure. I don't think so.

How about this extreme: If I serve the person who hands me that ID and a cop comes in to check the place, I can be fined thousands, my boss can lose hundreds of thousands in investment when the bar is closed, I lose my job, and then I CAN BE ARRESTED AND THROWN IN JAIL.
What would happen to the kid who brought this into the bar? Not much - a small fine and at most- community service hours.

The repercussions are not fair. Maybe it isn't my place to equalize them by mocking a kid who thought it was ok to threaten my livelihood and freedom. Maybe mocking isn't enough, and everytime I get an ID I should have the person arrested on the spot. Save the cops the trouble later on. Is that what you want?

I think that's vindictive. I don't think posting the ID was an attempt to cause harm on these kids, but a way to discuss a situation where they try to trick me and lose. If you were in the service industry you might understand my lack of compassion for people who try to get me fired from my job. No, I'm not a cop. I'm a citizen and resident of a neighborhood that is affected by the new brashness and confidence ( and a wicked sense of entitlement) that the underage drinkers exercise by coming into our bars, and putting us in a very bad position.

I didn't drink in bars until I was over 21. Maybe the law should make it legal for 18 year olds to drink, but I don't have enough of a political lobby to change that myself. MADD changed it in the 80's because of drunk driving accidents. Outside of New York, America has a driving culture. People drive to the bar and still drive home after a few drinks. That scares me. So until the oil runs out, US lawmakers have made a sincere attempt to keep drunk driving down, which means letting people feel the dangers of driving before they can legally drink. Somehow the change in the drinking age helped lower some death statistics. I don't know that changing the drinking age back to 18 will keep those statistics down. Inside New York City, the majority of people don't drive, and certainly a great weight would be lifted from the shoulders of the service industry if college kids could drink legally.

In those places where patrons do drive to the bar, the bartender and bar can be sued if on their drive home they hit someone. That's awful. Americans need to start taking responsibility for their actions, and not abuse the legal system to blame others for their own mistakes.

I don't think Ashley was driving, and I'm certain that neither of us meant for this issue to blow up like it has over the past few days. She didn't have malicious intent, and neither did I. But the laws in which we function could have done seriously terrible things to me for her having a fake ID if I didn't catch her. As a bartender, I am responsible for other's actions. That is not right.

Why the DMCA notice was important
Her choice to use a DMCA notice to remove her picture may not have been the best move. But what is this law that would allow immediate censorship of someone's first amendment rights without any review? Ashley acted on the advice of a friend, and obviously didn't see the reaction of the internet world coming. But what injustice did she stumble upon?

Maybe the real treachery of this situation is the way that we've legislated away our right to speak and publish. Is this law just? What are the many ways it's being used improperly?

Isn't that the real issue? A fake ID wouldn't make the cover of a slash dot page unless it was about something else. It's about the laws we've allowed to be passed and how these laws are functioning against us. It's about how we're in such a culture of fear that we allow this legislation.

What are you going to do about it?
Will you write a letter to your senator about how you disagree with the DMCA?
or go to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and learn more about what's going on?
Do what you think is right and live responsibly, in every way you can.

Whats become of it all
I didn't intend to slander Ashley, and certainly didn't intend the firestorm of hate that washes both towards her and me from the few internet discussions about us.

I obviously don't have control over the US liquor laws, and do think that these things need to be revised.

Especially, I think NYU needs to take some responsibility for its students and how they're effecting the neighborhood. I think the penalty for underage drinking should be heavier on the drinker, not the bar or the bartender.

I think the DMCA should be used properly, and with restraint. All laws should be used to help society function with the least amount of hurt.

I apologize if I've hurt Ashley, or any of the other kids who try to pass off a fake ID at the bar. I hope they too apologize, like Ashley has. Her apology was well thought out and very sincere.

People should learn to interact with each other decently. I'm sorry for all of you who missed the humor of my posts, and who thought I was attempting to endanger underage drinkers as they have already endangered me. I really wasn't attempting to be malicious.

Many people have asked me if they can make donations in case I end up in a legal battle. Awesome! There's a paypal button on the left column if you feel so inclined. Thanks.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
headhouse said...

I completely agree with you. Bonus points for eloquence, too. Good luck with the rampaging hordes of the internet.

Brian said...

You've been awfully considerate and fair in your handling of the fake ID situation. Perhaps the young lady in question is suffering from a Napoleon complex (Hilton complex?), and doesn't get it. Hopefully this experience is a learning one for her, or maybe she needs an NYPD visit. Down here in the hills of Texas, use of a fake ID is a felony. Convicted felons typically aren't "going places".

Dennis said...

I found a link to your blog from Fark. I enjoy that site and rarely read the comments. I refuse to participate in them.

I find your situation fascinating and sad at the same time. It's unfortunate these days that a person can commit an illegal act, get caught and somehow profit from it. It's a sorry commentary on our society today.

You are a victim of a greedy lawyer that will profit from this situation no matter what. One hopes that she gets hit with a frivolous lawsuit fine and your costs are covered. I hope you follow this to it’s natural conclusion and she pays for both breaking the law and flaunting it in front of a courthouse.

Best of luck

kenny said...

As a former bartender, I completely agree with you. I usually just snapped the fakes in half and told the kiddies to get the hell out (mainly because I'm lazy) but I've always wanted to vent in other ways. Please repost this fake ID after filing the counter-notice. After that point, her only option is to sue, and as long as you don't have any defamatory comments posted, there's nothing she can really sue for.

JR said...

You deserve kudos for being so gracious.

viper1619 said...

Contrary to most of the kids who's IDs you've pulled, there are those of us who appreciate what you do (well, a whole heck of a lot of us!) Keep up the good work, and good luck on your Ask the Bartender column!

mage said...

rock on, bartender. from everything I've seen and read, you did everything right. just a victim of a cocky freshman who thought she could twist the legal system to save a little face. if I ever find myself in the area, I'll make it a point to pay my patronage, after all this internet fun. and I'll have my ID ready for you.

isorashi said...

Very well thought-out post. Hope things settle down and go well for you.

Andrew said...

excellently worded. lets do a toast to the east village tomorrow.

Anthony said...

I agree with you as well, I think your ID posts are funny and to hell with anyone dumb enough to try and pass one of these absolutely awful fakes.

Evan said...

Wow. I'm surprised that this thing knows my name. I didn't enter it in or register...

At any rate, I just wanted to say it's nice to understand the other side of the argument. To be honest, while I never did use a fake Id, I was the guy of the group who looked like he was 26, so I often just went balls in and hoped for the best. I could never understand why bartenders/store clerks would get so angry at me if they did happen to ask me before, and took it as a personal insult before. However, reading this, I do understand yours and their side much more, to the point that, yes I was being an idiot and endangering their livelihood. While I wouldn't blame my problems on the people who served me alcohol if I had a run in with the police, I doubt very much with the way the law seems to work that it would have much cared. Thank you for sharing your thoughts so well on the matter.

Sara said...

/. and Digg have communities that throw out comments first and think second. I hope that you can find humor in the supportive comments, and can easily and freely dismiss the ones that are only meant to hurt you. I applaud your blog and your methods. I don't agree that the drinking age should be 21. I think the drinking age and the driving age are reversed. I think one should learn to handle themselves around alcohol before learning to drive a deadly weapon. But I digress. I appreciate your well written words, and am personally glad that I was pointed in the direction of your blog. Good luck!

Jay said...

You know what? Good for you.

My sister was a waitress in a restaurant where someone passed a convincing fake ID. She got fired because the cops caught the underager and fined the owner $250.

Courts sentence shoplifters to wear breadboards proclaiming their crime. Some states are suggesting legislation that would make sex offenders have special license plates. A little public humiliation goes a long way towards stopping recidivist behavior.

I say, keep it up. We all turn 21 some time.

Ryan said...

i am on your side, but in response to your one line in one of your posts, it is NOT illegal to HAVE a fake i.d. it IS illegal to try and pass it off as a real i.d.

Ciaran said...

A well worded reply.

Would it be possible to soo the reply from Ashley, or are you considering that private?

What is going to happen with the DMCA notice? Is it still being pursued?

Will you continue to post and comment on Fake ID's?

All the best.

Zeina said...

After going to court because of 23 summons for fake ids within the last month and dealing with them on a daily basis. I completely sympathize.

WaynePhx said...

I've been on Slashdot for years and yes, they usually post before thinking. In fact, that article is how I came to here (sorry, woke up in the middle of the night and my brain is still not entirely online).

I think what you do is pretty humorous. Sadly, the world is quickly become a far less than humorous place. And you have my full agreement re: the DMCA takedown and copyrighting derived work. If the girl was a budding politician, she needs to get slapped upside the head that nothing remains buried anymore.

Personally, I think it'd be a good thing if the school newspapers did something like Australia does (or once did) with drunk drivers: page 1 photo with the caption "He/She Drove Drunk". They probably don't have enough space to post those any more.

heather said...

I'm glad to hear Ashley apologized. The attitude of entitlement in the world today is becoming an epidemic. /. and Fark can be harsh, but well, that's the anonymous internet for you.

Good luck, and I hope things mellow out soon.

Akumu said...

I agree with your actions 100%. All you're doing is looking after your own butt, and having some fun with dumb kids while you're at it.

You get major points from me :D

Phillip said...

What a great post - if nothing, this whole affair has persuaded me to come down to your bar tonight and have a drink or two.

And yes, I'm over 21


johnhummel said...

I'm with you - if they're stupid enough to try and get away with it, then they deserve the embarrassment. Good luck on the suit - if things go bad, I'll try to throw in some cash.

I don't drink myself, but if I'm ever in New York I'll stop by the bar with my wife just for kicks.

drdank said...

Ha, glad to see you got some mileage out of my slashdot comment.