They were called "checkers," volunteers who posed as potential apartment renters or home buyers during the 1960s, '70s and '80s, responding to possible cases of racial or religious discrimination in housing.
There are occasional elections where voters are not asked to decide very much – as in last June's primary, where the presidential candidates had been determined beforehand and the propositions aroused few emotions.
There's a musicality to the whine of a highballing freight train on an open stretch of track, just as there is to the whine of an 18-wheeler barreling down the Interstate. Both have been a muse for many a songwriter. But you rarely hear a song rhapsodizing about the off-key whine of today's super-rich.
If some voters feel a sense of déjà vu as Tuesday's election nears, one reason may be the battle between the tax-raising Propositions 30 and 38, a fight with strong and ironic echoes of the historic June 1978 clash between two property tax-cutting measures, Propositions 8 and 13.
On the surface, Proposition 36 Tuesday's ballot seems like it should be an absolute slam-dunk. That's the initiative seeking to change California's landmark Three-Strikes-and-You're-Out law, the 1994 measure imposing an automatic 25-years-to-life sentence on most three-time felons.
America has always had political campaigns that dig into the muck of their opponents' personal lives, then fling any nasty nuggets of negativity they find right into the face of voters. But this year is different. Not, of course, because there's any less singling of slime, but because the campaigns are also digging into the private affairs of another political target: You.
NARAL Pro-Choice America is targeting what it calls "Obama defectors": female voters who supported Barack Obama in 2008 but now are considering voting for Mitt Romney.
It became clear early last spring that the trustees of the 23-campus California State University system just don't get it. Shuffling administrators from school to school and bringing in the occasional outsider, they began giving new college presidents salaries far higher than what predecessors had received.
"In what new ways," an "undecided voter" asked the presidential candidates during the second debate, "do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?"
Political pundits have been warning about an October surprise that could affect the outcome of the presidential election. But this year's October surprise may have been the 9/11 murder of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, along with three other Americans, and President Obama's deceitful, cowardly response.
Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
The League of Women Voters boasts that it presents "unbiased nonpartisan information about elections, the voting process, and issues." Phyllis Loya always assumed that meant the organization believed in presenting both sides of issues to its members, but recently she discovered she was wrong.
In the final debate, liberal CBS anchorman Bob Schieffer did it right. He moderated without asserting his own political opinions. Indeed, if this was all you had as a compass, you'd never know where he leaned. It was a welcome change from the Raddatz and Crowley libfests.
President Barack Obama won the final presidential debate because it was on foreign policy, and the president's foreign policy - unlike his domestic spending - is popular with the American people.
Who are these undecided voters?
If the Rev. Al Sharpton, the bigoted, anti-Semitic, non-tax paying race-hustling poverty pimp, had any credibility left, it just vanished.
Let's review the rap sheet of Wall Street banks: defrauding investors, cheating homeowners, money laundering, rigging markets, tax evasion, credit card ripoffs… and so sickeningly much more.
As I walked into the pharmacy, the technician who has kept track of all of my prescriptions for years was on an endless call trying to figure out who is going to deliver her baby and where.
Millions of Americans file their federal income tax returns by April 15 each year with no idea what the government actually does with all that money.
Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy and his well-armed supporters forced the well-armed federal government to back down and return Bundy's seized cows - which were seized because Bundy, 67, stopped paying grazing fees in 1993. How does anyone get the government to back down?
On our TV talk shows and op-ed pages, and in our think tanks here, there is rising alarm over events abroad. And President Obama is widely blamed for the perceived decline in worldwide respect for the United States.
On April 1, Washington Mayor Vincent Gray was denied a second term, defeated in the primary by upstart city councilwoman Muriel Bowser. The beginning of the end came on March 10, when U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen struck a plea bargain with a wealthy businessman who confessed he'd spent $668,000 on an illegal "shadow campaign" to fund get-out-the-vote efforts that helped Gray win the mayoral office in 2010.
The Social Security Disability Insurance program is in big trouble. In 2016, the program's trust fund is expected to run out of money. When that happens, there will be "large across-the-board cuts for all beneficiaries," warn James Lankford, the Republican chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees entitlements, and Jackie Speier, the subcommittee's ranking Democrat. Those cuts will be painful for the "truly disabled," whom the system originally was designed to serve.
I know I shouldn't be, but I am shocked by Americans' laziness.
"There is a gay mafia," said Bill Maher, "if you cross them you do get whacked."
On a recent morning, after checking news reports, I thought: What a freaky news day.
Billionaires are exploiting a tax break to pass their fortunes along to their heirs and laying the groundwork for dynasties.
It has been more than 40 years since the United States Supreme Court held in Roe v. Wade that a woman, in consultation with her physician, has the right to decide whether to have a child in the early months of pregnancy.
Just before the bankruptcy of the Mt. Gox bitcoin digital-money (or virtual-currency) exchange, Japanese finance minister Taro Aso predicted the inevitable failure. "No one recognizes them as a real currency," he told reporters. "I expected such a thing to collapse."
"While painful, the events of the last week show exactly why we need the (Web). So all of us can engage freely in the tough conversations we need to make the world better." That moment of fantasy came courtesy of Mozilla Chairwoman Mitchell Baker as she announced last week that Mozilla's new CEO, Brendan Eich, had caved in to calls that he resign for the Silicon Valley sin of having donated $1,000 to Proposition 8, the California ballot measure to limit marriage to one man and one woman - six years ago.