There’s an old truism in advertising to the effect that if you have nothing distinctive to say about your product, you write a jingle.
In politics that “jingle” in the wake of nothing to offer is usually some variant of “Ya Got Trouble” from The Music Man.* You whip up the threat level, facts be damned, and the people frequently follow the jingle. At the state level, the handiest threats are criminals.
Thus a shift in parole policies — during the last year of the Pataki Administration and continuing into the present — has become a “Ya Got Trouble” jingle for some State Senators, aided and abetted by the likes of The Daily News.
It’s a good thing that journals such as the Times Union remain anchored in reality:
Caught in a political crossfire over the release of violent felons, New York parole officials report that none of the 456 violent felons paroled in the last four years was sent back to prison for committing a new crime.
Parole for murderers and other violent felons flared into a political issue recently after their release rates increased under former Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer. The controversy is unlikely to fade away under Gov. David Paterson, with Republican critics still pressing for changes.
Not one of 456 sent back to prison for committing a crime. But maybe these parolees are saying “swell” and “so’s your old man.” Who knows?
*For those too young to remember, The Music Man, set in 1912, involves traveling con man Harold Hill’s attempt to hoodwick the citizens of River City, Iowa. His con is to move from town to town selling musical instruments, uniforms and the promise of lessons for a boy’s band, and then leaving town with the collected money before anyone has discovered that he is musically illiterate. In River City, he learns that a new pool table has come into the town — and delivers a song/sermon about the moral perils of a pool table and the salvific opportunity of a boy’s band. For instance:
Mothers of River City!
Heed the warning before it’s too late!
Watch for the tell-tale sign of corruption!
The moment your son leaves the house,
Does he rebuckle his knickerbockers below the knee?
Is there a nicotine stain on his index finger?
A dime novel hidden in the corn crib?
Is he starting to memorize jokes from Capt.
Billy’s Whiz Bang?
Are certain words creeping into his conversation?
Words like ‘swell?”
And ‘so’s your old man?”
Well, if so my friends,
Ya got trouble,
Right here in River city!
With a capital “T”
And that rhymes with “P”
And that stands for Pool.