Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Josh Hicks plays How To Be A Stooge In 5 . . . 4 . . 3 . . . 2 . . .

It's rare that, while the con game is going on, the numbers are so prominently before you.

Josh Hicks plays the stooge in an article for the Washington Post on the VA's claims backlog.

Background: The claims backlog in a press nightmare.  And the numbers only going up when Barack Obama becomes president.  There's no improvement.  VA officials, including Secretary of the VA Eric Shinseki, promise the numbers will go down.  But they really don't.  So a shell game is created.

Since the press is focusing on the 125 days or more, let's slap quick opinions on these claims and let the vets suffer through the appeals process.  That way, we get to kill the press interest in the backlog and we all know how lazy and stupid the press is so they won't notice what's taking place before their own eyes.

Josh Hicks kind of proves that out with his write-up that he foolishly thinks qualifies as a report.

He opens with:

The Department of Veterans Affairs has cut its backlog of pending disability benefit claims by 44 percent since saying in March 2013 that its caseload had reached a “tipping point,” but some veterans organizations are challenging the accuracy of the agency’s numbers.

And the proof of the shell game is in his article.  But it's 14 paragraphs later and Hicks doesn't even notice it:

As of September, the number of appeals had grown by 50 percent — to more than 250,000 cases — since Obama took office. The Board of Veterans Appeals has said its caseload will probably double before 2018.

Let's drop back to the 70s for a moment.  Dynamite magazine came out of nowhere to be a huge success.  It sold a ton of copies.  That wasn't its intent.  Yes, it wanted to make money but the primary focus of this Scholastic magazine was to increase reading among children and young adults.  It did that and then some while proving there was a huge market for something other than the children's magazines that treated children as if they were the Bobbsey Twins who only cared about a walk through the meadow and the butterfly they saw.  Unlike most children's magazine at that time -- which usually trafficked in pastel illustrations or black and white ink drawings and not photographs, Dynamite offered the Farrah and Cher cover stories,  the TV characters Pinky and Fonzie, etc.

Started in 1974, it was a huge hit.

And when anything does very well, others come sniffing around.  Marvel hurried to do something similar and came up with Pizzazz which they began publishing in 1977.  It was an almost immediate failure.  The first issue did the best in terms of sales but all that followed was a nightmare.  Why?

It was hell getting stores to carry it.  To make a profit, it needed to be in grocery stores and drug stores and what happened was they'd get this group of stores to carry it one month, go to work on another group and by the third month the first group was saying the magazine wasn't selling enough.  They actually did very well in subscriptions.  But that wasn't enough to keep them afloat so it was dead by 1979.  Dynamite would continue on into the 90s and never had that problem because it was sold via Scholastic -- meaning every few weeks in classrooms across America, teachers passed out the Scholastic catalog of books, magazines, bookmarks, posters, etc.  Students would flip through them and then those whose parents could afford it would return with money for whatever was of interest.  Dynamite was able to bypass the need to be on magazine racks.

Pizzazz tried to be edgy and hoped that would be enough to help it sell off the racks.  So while Dynamite encouraged 'good' behavior, Pizzazz was more the prankster.

A friend with the magazine was really proud of one feature they put out.  It was on mashed potatoes.

It was explaining to the readers that they should have ask for mashed potatoes with every meal.


Because if your parent or parents were complaining that you weren't eating your green beans or your spinach or your whatever, you just, during the meal, used the mashed potatoes to cover up whatever offending vegetable you didn't want to eat.

It wasn't Abbott & Costello's Who's On First, but it was a funny feature for its targeted audience and it came off very well with the illustrations.

So the point of that story?

The VA is slapping mashed potatoes on the backlog.

That's all that's happened and the proof is in Hicks' own story.

The backlog is down by 44%! Yet appeals are up by 50!

When my friend showed me the Pizzazz story -- and I think the whole issue but the mashed potato story was the standout -- I laughed and complimented them on the feature but pointed out that even if a parent didn't start complaining about the never-eaten mashed potatoes at each dinner, there was still the fact that when food was scraped off the plate -- into a dog dish or into the trash -- a parent would probably notice that there were vegetables in the mashed potatoes.

"It's just a one joke feature," my friend explained.

And I agreed.

But it looks now like I was wrong. (Happens all the time.)

If the parent were, for example, Josh Hicks, they'd never, ever notice, while scraping a plate, that there was spinach or broccoli or whatever hidden in the mashed potatoes.

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