From my earliest days I remember the American Heritage magazine. Dad subscribed to it and I too read each issue. It was the first magazine I subscribed to when I left home. Back then, it was more like a hard-cover book. I still have some of them. Eventually, printing and distribution costs outran marketable subscription prices and the hard cover was replaced with a thinner, more lightweight, slick cardboard-like binder. I learn something new every issue.
The most recent issue had a feature on dueling. A man or family member's honor was "insulted" and he would demand satisfaction in a duel. The challenged one would choose the weapon. Most often, it was a pistol. Accompanied by seconds they usually would stand back to back, walk a pre-determined number of steps, whirl and shoot. Sometimes, they would stand a distance facing each other and at a command would shoot at the other.
Sometimes the weapon would be a knife or something else. President Andrew Jackson won 13 duels before becoming president.
Then came two things I've never heard. A state legislator criticized one James Shields' work as a state auditor. Shields challenged the legislator to a duel. The legislator turned out to be 8 inches taller than Shields. He chose a sword as the weapon.
When Shields and his second arrived, legislator Abraham Lincoln was standing chopping limbs off a tree at a height Shields could reach only with a stepladder. Shields decided he'd rather talk than fight. Lincoln apologized for "the misunderstanding" and went on to become one of our most revered presidents.
What about Shields? He became the ONLY person in American history to become a U.S. Senator who served three different states.
The world didn't come to an end as a dedicated Bible student predicted from intense study of the Scriptures. Surprising was the media coverage given it, his spending hundreds of thousands of dollars advertising it and even more the many who actually believed it.
Give the man his due. He did study; did put considerable money where his mouth was. And when it didn't happen, he said he had simply miscalculated.
What I can't figure out is how his deep study apparently overlooked one of the passages that states unequivocally that no one but the Father, not even the Son, knows when the end will come. I hope when he issues the next specific date warning, the media will treat it as they usually do such crackpots.
Despite current denials, I can't shed a feeling Georgian Herman Cain actually is running to be picked as vice president. Obama got 95-plus percent of the black vote in 2008. Cain on a ticket probably would siphon off a fair percentage of the black population. Even 15-20 percent could be the difference in a close race.
Barring some financial catastrophe none of us want, it will be a close race. Meanwhile, the GOP field is growing with still no one generating much excitement and some who earlier said no now are said to be reconsidering.
Historical statistics dispute the left wing's insistence that defense spending since 9/11 has grown to historically unsustainable levels and is a major cause of the nation's constantly increasing debt.
All through the Cold War with Russia, our defense spending was an average of 7.5 percent of our gross domestic product while entitlement programs rose at a considerably higher percentage. Today, including the high costs of Iraq and Afghanistan wars, we are spending 4.5 percent of our gross domestic product on defense. President Barack Obama's welfare state entitlements and proposals are increasing at a far greater percentage with demands for even more.
Yet, he currently must be considered likely to be re-elected. Are we blind, uninformed, bull-headed or what?
Ted Oglesby is retired associate and opinion editor of The Times whose column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and on gainesvilletims.com. You can contact him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503.