By Dan Bodine
“Everybody has their price,” the old saying goes. “Never say you’ll never do it.” Now the pharmaceutical industry is putting journalists in their crosshair of people to “buy.” Along with prescribing doctors, the story goes. Dr. Mercola has the news in a recent article entitled “Are journalists the drug industry’s newest lackeys?” Link to it is here.
Hee, hee. “Favor fees” they call them in Mexico. Aka, el mordido. How does someone wanting a “favor” of some sorts instinctively know who will and who absolutely won’t take a bribe? Huh?
All the world’s relative, right? Well, I wanna protest. Nobody’s blatantly ever offered me a bribe. That I can remember. Hee, hee. Honest Injun! I sure would’ve changed my body language, dour expression, whatever, I‘d sworn at times, to get one. Times have been rough.
Nobody needs extra income as much as journalists and poor border J.P’s, were my thoughts often. Where’s the people with the mulah? The dinero? The mordidas? Maybe we can work sumpthin’ out. I‘m hurting here, damn it!”
Remember one time in Cleburne, TX, working as a journalist myself, a prominent realtor who was having a hard time with the City of Cleburne’s public works department on some various projects came close to it.
One day he took me to one of his houses to photograph a wall urinal. He claimed the city had made him install in a bathroom (at his added expense, natch!), instead of a normal commode. Sound smelly?
Good photo I made of Ol’ Theo a sitting on the bathtub with his left arm extended to the wall urinal, hugging it like you’d embrace an unruly stepchild. Ugly repulsion was all over his face at how he was being mistreated, is how I remember it. Good story, it could’ve been.
Only problem was that I managed to find Andy Anderson, the city’s public works director then, by phone in Denver, CO, shortly before deadline; and thus tamed the story down some. Andy was there interviewing for something I think. I knew Andy and trusted him; he was part of our darts night boys.
“Andy, what’s this about you making ol’ Theo put a pisser on the wall?”
“Ain’t so! He’s just mad.”
Can’t remember the why part; it’d made a good follow-up story all by itself though. But as badly as I needed money then I think the only nudge I’d needed to’ve continued to go with the story as written was if only I’d been given a “favor fee” of a few hundred dollars or so for it. Hee, hee.
As an alcoholic–and in the days, too, I’d later explain in AA groups, when I’d find myself driving from one bank to another to kite another check to buy whiskey–the only excuse I’d need was someone crossing my palm with some currency.
Were they crazy for not doing it? It’s supposed to be common practice, right? To grease Life’s wheels in your direction? Hey, professional lobbyists in our Age of Corpocracy do it routinely! Well, for me getting some, all my life it’s been like that! Left out! Where do I go to protest being excluded? Some of these folks clearly have violated my civil rights!
Same thing later in Presidio. As the only judge in town–in a border town, no less–with wrecks, civil suits, evictions, etc., to all divvy up, you’d think a person should really have ample opportunities for making some serious money. Huh? Not me! Why? Because I was a gringo? Smelled bad? No habla Espanol? (Pay a translator damn it! Double your benefits!)
Signing up new babies, for instance. Role as a state registrar. Granting immediate citizenship, it was. With the only hospital in the whole Big Bend area 90 miles away, surely you’re going to have a midwife in town to help out those few unable or unwilling to make that long trip. Surely. Would there be a chance for me in it? Never came!
But the babies did. Bunches of them! Every few days sometimes it seemed! No local or county official in any way wanted to get involved advising me on it. Only the county judge, a friend, once advised, personally, I wouldn’t do it.
But the alternative? I asked back. What do you do? A baby’s a baby!
Finally, What do I do with all these? I remember asking a bewildered attorney by phone once in the justice court training center in Austin.
Well, if they were born there in Presidio you’ve got to register them, I was told simply. Don’t you violate anyone’s rights!
Jeesh! I swore at times staff at that center was in cahoots with the state’s trial lawyers association. What about my rights? And what about common sense? These calls I got to come to a house to observe a new baby almost always were on weekends, or at nights.
Didn’t take long, of course, even for someone as slow as I am to smell the fish. A look back thru previous registration files showed something like 60-70 births a year sometimes in this one small community. Most of the moms were from Ojinaga, MX, I suspected, across the river, over here visiting relatives.
Once I remember the court clerk and I following a trail of blood from a home’s driveway on the outskirts of town, into the house and down a long hallway, and finally to the mother, still on the floor. Smiling nervously. Her baby had been born in the United States finally, and here was the ol’ judge, ready to make the infant legal. With all those economic rights coming!
But where’s my share? I often thought. Aren’t you suppose to pay for these kind of favors? The county sure isn’t paying me extra for it. I want my mordita! I probably felt.
So this had to stop, yes. Started making them sign Declarations or Affidavits of Facts, describing the background some. And I made photos. Parents, baby, and midwife all. If I was going to be investigated, I wanted something to take into court with me.
Then I started making the mothers get an examination slip from the local state department of public health office. Make sure something had happened first. Hee, hee. Most were honest births, of course; some the clinic would call and say no way no how.
And eventually it stopped. Stricter inspection procedures and longer lines at the Port of Entry from Mexico kicked in, too. Generally, I could see area newspapers carrying more birth announcement stories out of the hospital, from families in Presidio. And my annual registrations dropped down to 2-3 or sometimes zero.
A big worry–of granting an illegal a citizenship (with all the hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer benefits associated with it)–was lifted from me. And my reward for doing it? For earning the savings? My just desert? Hee, hee. Only I could sleep better.
But I was being watched, too. I always sensed that. A regional federal enforcement officer from Alpine made the comment once in the office, Judge, you’re the only Presidio JP our office hasn’t had to investigate in the past 20 years or so for bribery.
Well, that’s only because I’m a gringo, I laughed. Or too stupid. Maybe both! Or sumpthin’!
He smiled. The common practice was for prearrangements to be made with the midwife for say $1,000. She’d take $500. And give $500 to the judge. Zip, zip, and zip. A nice secondary income.
Mexico is awash with such practices, of course. Use to be. The main reason is the abysmal low wages paid to government employees. That and the Mexican people are not stupid! They know how to survive.
Journalists weren’t exactly born falling off turnip wagons either. Many though have fallen from other wagons. Many times. And the fact their salaries have dropped even lower comparatively now with continued decline in traditional newspaper circulation and advertising doesn’t bode well for them, of course.
The fact that Big Pharma is now going after them speaks loudly also how desperate the times are getting for the drug companies, too, to keep their high profits. We have a classic morality play in the making. Again, check that link in the first paragraph to the very respectful Dr. Mercola’s story.
So it’s going to be interesting to watch how this one plays out, yes. Maybe…
“Yo, Jethro! ‘Ya still got a reporter’s notepad or two laying around. Huh? Got this here little idea. Want to earn a little extra SPENDING money?…Jethro!!!
Hee, hee. He must’ve heard my wife coming.