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?
A quick way to kill debate is to accuse your political adversary of "lying."
How bad will it get? The public approval rating for Congress has sunk to 9 percent, the lowest level since Gallup began to ask us about it.
In his Kremlin defense of Russia's annexation of Crimea, Vladimir Putin, even before he began listing the battles where Russian blood had been shed on Crimean soil, spoke of an older deeper bond.
The Supreme Court has done it again. By a 5-4 vote, with the court's five Republican appointees on one side and the four Democratic appointees on the other, the court struck down limits on total contributions to federal campaigns that have been enforced and were specifically upheld in 1976. What the 1976 court saw in Buckley v. Valeo as a "quite modest restraint upon protected political activity" that serves "to prevent evasion" of the limits on contributions to campaigns, the 2014 court has now held violates the fundamental protection of political speech enshrined in the First Amendment.
Mozilla's new CEO, Brendan Eich, gave $1,000 to Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure passed by a majority of California voters to limit marriage to one man and one woman. The U.S. Supreme Court voided the measure, but the hate campaign against its supporters lives on.
Oh, how the tide has turned against abortion. Just last week, there were three stunning setbacks to the pro-abortion movement.
Royal Dutch Shell buried a bombshell in its recently released 2013 annual report.
President Obama has ramped up his second round of economic and financial sanctions on Russia, and on Vladimir Putin in particular. Some of this is already working. But if anybody believes it will be easy to financially deflate Russia, they better think again.
Should Congress repeal Obamacare?
Observers have likened the federal case against state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and 25 others to the film "American Hustle," about an FBI Abscam-like sting that used a small-time con man to win corruption convictions against public officials.
Politico reported something interesting before President Barack Obama met with Pope Francis: "The visit is a rare chance for Obama to associate himself with a world leader whose cool factor far outweighs his own."
I admit it. I have been obsessed with the plane. Most of the stories I've read offered no new information, but I read them anyway.
Obamacare is a fiasco. Why don't the media acknowledge that? And it's fair to ask: Why don't they ridicule it? After all, in the Bush years, the press reran President George W. Bush in front of the "Mission Accomplished" banner time and again, did they not? Perhaps Joe Biden at the signing ceremony saying into an open mic that this was a "big (blanking) deal" would suffice.
A week ago, in the St. George's Hall in the Kremlin, Russia's elite cheered and wept as Vladimir Putin announced the re-annexation of Crimea. Seven in 10 Russians approve of Putin's rule.