- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 21, 2002

Noble: The friendly folks at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), for dialing into consumer frustrations and announcing a plan to create a national "do not call" registry.
Everyone's had the experience, often three or four times during dinner. The home phone rings, and, instead of ET on the line trying to phone home, it's a friendly voice telling you how much money you could save by buying a product that will keep your dinner warm when you are unexpectedly caught on the phone. Even if one is fortunate enough to have been born with a hard-to-pronounce last name, thus allowing one to quickly get off the hook by faking a foreign accent, the food still looks less appetizing.
To help consumers avoid getting hung up by such interruptions, this week the FTC announced it's "do not call" list. When it is up and running (a process that will likely take several months, if it survives an expected lawsuit from the telemarketing industry), individuals will be able to register their numbers with the FTC by either toll-free phone call or a click on a computer keypad. Telemarketers will be prohibited from calling those numbers for five years. If consumers receive further solicitations, the FTC could levy fines on the offending parties of up to $11,000 per call.
The system isn't perfect. Several free-market groups have expressed concerns about excessive government regulations, financing for the program is not completely firm and similar state efforts to that end may be frustrated.
Despite those concerns, it still sounds like the FTC has made the right call. Cold calls should not be the constant cause of consumers' cold dinners.

Knave: Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, for departing on a spending streak of St. Nicholas proportions.
Times are tough across the country. They're apparently really tough for departing Mr. Glendening, who is leaving without a whole lot to show for his eight years in office. So, instead of holding his breath until someone forcibly ejects him from his high chair, Mr. Glendening has embarked on a slightly more juvenile path. He's spending the state red.
Specifically, Mr. Glendening is stuffing a sack full of expensive packages down the throat of the incoming administration of Bob Ehrlich, including a 2 percent wage increase for state employees estimated to cost $100 million and a Chesapeake Bay cleanup that could cost $500 million. That's despite the fact that Maryland's Board of Revenue Estimates recently that the state would run a deficit of about $1.2 billion in the next fiscal year if spending continues at the same level.
Charles Porcari, one of Mr. Glendening's little elves, somehow said with a straight face, "The governor is obligated to work to implement his agenda up until his last day in office. The governor is doing what he was elected to do."
Actually, the governor was elected to look after the interests of Marylanders. That should mean, where necessary, making difficult budget decisions instead of indulging in a last minute spending spree for the sake of his legacy.
Let's be blunt: Mr. Glendening's spree is a slightly glamourized version of Bill and Hillary Clinton's departure from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. with suitcases stuffed full of White House silverware. It's also given (probably intentionally) Mr. Ehrlich a choice of undesirable budget reconciliation measures raise taxes, legalize slots or renege on deals done by Mr. Glendening.
Mr. Ehrlich has promised not to raise taxes, and so far, he's been too nice to comment on Mr. Glendening's naughty expenditures despite the fact that he's seen the spending list, and undoubtedly checked it twice.
For leaving a lump of coal in the stocking of every Marylander, Mr. Glendening is knave of the week.


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