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?
I recently mentioned in a column on renewable energy that solar power could generate half of the world's electricity by 2050. I cited the International Energy Agency as my source.
The brilliant actor Benedict Cumberbatch is in hot water for getting his words wrong. Appearing on Tavis Smiley's show, the Oscar-nominated star of "The Imitation Game" took a strong stand in favor of greater diversity in Hollywood.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters descend on Washington every January to "March for Life," protesting the horror of more than a million abortions in America every year. Every year the "news" outlets report next to nothing, even when their reporters are there documenting the event as their cameras film it.
The Super Bowl is well timed. It comes mid-winter, a month after our New Year's resolutions begin deflating, when the market is teetering, our finances are squeezed, and the collections agencies calling day and night. For those who were fortunate to make some income last year, the 1099's or W-2s arrive, and we brace ourselves to face off with the IRS.
So why is it that while other states are now enjoying gas prices of less than $2 per gallon, California is still paying higher prices?
First lady Michelle Obama made an important statement when she showed up in Saudi Arabia with her husband Tuesday to mourn the death of King Abdullah and meet successor King Salman. Though the first lady dressed in a fashion respectful of Saudi custom - in black pants and a long, loose jacket that fully covered her arms and legs - she did not don a headscarf. Saudi women do not have that choice. Thus, the first lady made a fashion statement that sent a politely assertive message to the all-male Saudi delegation.