Tag Archives: Washington

My Nemesis, the Black Vulture, Comes to D.C.

I hate black vultures, and not because I generally hate birds — I have a professional hatred for black vultures.

Back when I was a hill staffer, constituents contacted the office I worked for through the local agriculture county extension agent complaining about black vultures eating their livestock. I know what you’re thinking. Don’t vultures only eat dead animals? No. Black vultures also eat live ones, especially cute newborns.

They team up in packs, take out the eyes and other aspects of the face of their victim, and boom — dinner is served.

Black vultures are actually protected by a treaty the United States stupidly signed with a bunch of other countries. The logic of course being that we wanted to give these non-endangered violent birds with few (if any) known predators a license to kill other animals across the globe while simultaneously protecting the non-endangered ones that are logos for outdoor clothing companies like Eddie Bauer.

And because it’s a treaty, it’s not easy to fix when the unintended consequences become clear. The Navy discovered this when the nutters at Earth Justice went after them for bombing masked boobies on a small island the U.S. owns. (Yes, really. Masked boobies.)

Coragyps-atratus-002Farmers and ranchers out in the district wanted to comply with the law (read: not go to jail for killing a bird that’s not a Bald Eagle), and asked our office to look into it.

So, I called Fish and Wildlife and asked what the deal was with stopping them from killing livestock. Would FWS come out and capture them? Send them to a vulture foster home? A vulture preserve?


The FWS-proposed solution was they could go to a regional office and apply for a permit to kill one black vulture. After killing it, they instruct the rancher to hang it from a tree to scare away the other black vultures. (In retrospect, this sounds kind of racist.) The constituents weren’t pleased with this solution.

Short of withdrawing from the treaty, which won’t likely happen, that left them in kind of a pickle. Killing one of these without a permit can land you in the slammer for six months and a fine of $15,000. I couldn’t say this at the time to the constituents, but I wondered why they just didn’t kill the damn birds. After all, who would miss these things aside from wealthy liberal ornithologist city slickers, bureaucrats, and environmentalists?

It’s not like FWS has roving patrols of meter maids checking on the growing populace of  federally protected violent predators with no real predator to kill them. And it’s the middle of the country.

Anyways, the Washington Post reports that vultures, and by the photograph I’m nearly certain they’re black vultures, are now in Washington, D.C. — on K Street, no less.

I left the hill for the lucrative world of journalism and never heard if the vulture situation back west was really resolved. I emailed the local agriculture rep I once worked with, and he confirmed “We still have them here, just glad to share the over-abundance.”

The only known predators for black vultures are a few species of the eagle. And now that they’re in Washington, perhaps MetroBus can be added to the list of known predators.

It will be interesting to see if the black vultures become a problem in Washington. My guess is they’ll just be the butt of a “lobbyists are vultures” joke until they murder some hipster’s rescue dog at a dog park.

Only then will we hear the outrage.


The Ultimate Washington Intern Guide

In my six years in the greater Washington area, I’ve come across many interns. Some of them are very talented and will go on to do great things and be successful. Others are worth the minimum wage for interning, $0 an hour and actually cause more harm than benefit.

While I never interned anywhere, I’ve picked up some (not so) helpful “tips” along the way and figured I’d share them with you.

1.) All the best happy hours are in Anacostia.

Seriously, nobody goes out in Adam’s Morgan, Capitol Hill, or DuPont except tourists. You don’t want to mingle with them. Go to Anacostia and revel in the good atmosphere, historic neighborhoods, and amazing drink specials. Order anything with Mumbo sauce.

2.) Use the bus.

Nobody takes the train except tourists and uber commuters. Washington’s bus system is extensive and will get you where you need to go in no time flat. Best of all, they’re cheap.

3.) If you have to take a train, use your ID Badge for Free Rides.

If you work for a federal agency, simply wave your ID badge to the station manager and walk through the gate on the side. You won’t need to pay. Do the same thing as you exit. (If you’re at an NGO, business, or non-profit, wave your student ID.) If you see the doors closing, run like the wind because metro doors operate like elevator doors. Stick your arm, leg, or bag in there and they’ll pop open and you’re all set. Here, we also do not hold elevator doors since people constantly do this. If somebody says “hold the elevator” — don’t.

4.) Stand left, walk right.

This town has a lot of escalators. In Washington, we stand on the left and walk on the right. If you see anyone breaking this rule, kindly inform them “Stand left, walk right.”

5.) Flag Day is an official federal holiday in the District.

None of your bosses will tell you this, as it’s a time-honored Washington prank. Nobody goes to work and all the poor interns show up to locked buildings. Don’t fall for this. Stay home.

6.) Don’t see the fireworks.

People wait for hours for a four minute fireworks show. Federal law limits the show’s length to four minutes because of airspace regulations and also because it would harm the District’s Bald Eagle population. Stay home with friends, and tune into WETA or any local PBS station to watch the fireworks.

7.) The monuments are crowded at night.

Nobody sees the monuments during the day, because they all go at night. You should plan on going any weekend day in June, July, or August between the hours of 12 and 3pm. Nobody will be there and you can recreate the scene from Wedding Crashers at the Lincoln Monument and enjoy some champagne looking out at the empty reflecting pool. On really hot days, people bring pool toys and floaties to hang out in in the reflecting pool (free!).

8.) Always bring a jacket.

Weather varies wildly during the day and metro’s air conditioning is sporadic. Bring a fleece and wear it to work on the train. You won’t be sorry.

9.) Jumping up and down is the best way to hail a cab.

New cab regulations have established an official call sign for hailing cabs in the district. Since Washington is a friendly town where people often wave to each other, persons wishing to hail a cab should jump and down as if they’re doing jumping jacks and the nearest vacant cab must stop and pick them up. If they don’t pick you up, get their cab association name and number and report them to the nearest law enforcement. Also, ask about student intern discounts.

10.) The Smithsonian Museums Are Free on Fridays Between 5-7 — The Newseum is free After Five.

One great perk about being here for a few months is that there are enough Fridays to see every museum for free. Sadly, good museums cost, but lucky for you they’re open for free on Fridays between 5pm and 7pm. The Newseum costs every day, but is free after five. Consider taking the silver line train to Dulles to see the Udvar Hazy center. It has a space shuttle!

11.) Introduce yourself to every famous person you see.

You will see a lot of famous people walking around, say hello! Washington is friendly. Interrupt them and insist on a picture. They’ll be happy to oblige. Even if they’re on the phone.

12.) Street Sense has the best “going out guide” in town.

Nobody reads the Post or the Times for going out and weekend specials. The real deal can be found on the street’s corners where vendors sell Street Sense. If you really want to know what to do this weekend, buy a Street Sense. It’s worth the $2 and goes to a good cause.

13.) Thank police & law enforcement for their service.

D.C. is a town that respects the men and women in blue who keep us safe. Thank them every time you see them, and make it heart felt. Even if they’re in an unmarked car with D.C. tags that don’t say “Taxation Without Representation.” Look for the tinted windows, hidden flashers, and lots of antennas.

14.) Drinking is legal in public, and D.C. has no federal drinking age.

Since D.C. is a district and not a state, there are no drinking laws here since states — not the feds — set drinking laws. It’s just like London.

15.) Embassies are open to the public.

Most have cafeterias that highlight their native foods. But be careful, some embassies only accept their own currency or credit cards. Iran has an amazing lunch special.

16.) Heard of traffic cameras? Washington has pedestrian cameras.

If you walk when the sign says “Don’t Walk” you’ll get busted by the FBI facial recognition software in no time and a $275 ticket will be mailed to your home. Obey the law.

17.) Camping is legal outside of the White House.

Back in the day some hippies bent on stopping the progress of nuclear weapons started camping outside of the White House. Camping is perfectly kosher as long as they’re there. If you see the tent, feel free to plop down next to them and make it a weekend.

18.) The New Republic and Daily Caller have free happy hours every day after 5pm.

Seriously. They have bars in their offices and you should go meet Tucker Carlson or Chris Hughes. Make sure you pitch them a story when you’re there, as this is the only way they’ll accept freelance submissions.

Disclaimer: Follow these (not so) helpful “tips” at your own peril and do your own research before attempting to complete any of these tasks.