Posts

What is 'the House' in American politics?

Image
The American political system has three centres of power: the President and the two chambers in the American Congress the -  Senate  and the  House of Representatives . 'The House' is the bigger body because congressmen are elected at a local level while the Senate consists of two senators from each State. At present the Presidency & the Senate are controlled by the Democrats. The Republicans have a majority in the House. Legislation has to pass from the House to the Senate and finally to the President.  Because the two main parties (the Republicans & the Democrats) have major philosophical differences ( listen to a short explanation here ) most legislation is contested. Basics of American Politics (14th Edition) The Complete Idiot's Guide to U.S. Government and Politics

What is a credit default swap?

Image
Warren Buffett famously described 'derivatives' like CDS as 'financial weapons of mass destruction'. Here is a description of how they work. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine Warren Buffett Invests Like a Girl: And Why You Should, Too (Motley Fool)

What is a basis point?

Image
The cost of insuring Treasuries rose five basis points to 54.5 basis points, according to CMA prices for credit-default swaps. Credit-default swaps' were the primary cause of the financial collapse in 2008. A basis point is 1/100th of one percent (0.001%). Not a commonplace calculation and most accountants would not need to trouble with it in most transactions. But basis points are part of everyday conversation in Ireland, Greece, Portugal and now Italy. This is because the cost of insuring government debt is calculated to basis points as this recent example from the financial press shows:  Italian five-year CDS was 69 basis points wider at 512 basis points, nearing its record of 521 basis points hit on Sept. 21, according to data-provider Markit. A CDS is a credit default swop - a form of insurance of mind-bending complexity. You can see a short video explanation here. Financial Accounting As a Second Language Wall Street Lingo: Thousands of Investment Terms Explain

What is 'showboating'?

Image
To act up/show off/attempt to attract attention by ostentatious behaviour. When Andy Murray plays a shot between his legs he could be seen as 'showboating'. Originally an American term it has crossed the Atlantic, particularly when discussing sport The term refers to the theatrical performances produced on the riverboats on the Mississippi and other American rivers in the late 19th century. But the verb 'to showboat' only dates back to 1951 - and perhaps also refers to the great theatrical performer, Al Jolson. Jolson's 'black facing' was beginning to become controversial at this time - and the term 'showboating' perhaps reflects cultural disapproval of ostentation.

What is the difference between a fat and slim chance?

Image
Best summarised in this joke: you've got two chances fat and slim - and slim has just left town. In other words a slim chance is a remote possibility while fat chance means no chance at all. Cassell's Dictionary of Slang Green's Dictionary of Slang: Three-volume set

Can good writing be taught?

Image
Not according to one of the best contemporary essayists, Jacob Eptsein: A fter thirty years of teaching a university course in something called advanced prose style, my accumulated wisdom on the subject, inspissated into a single thought, is that writing cannot be taught, though it can be learned—and that, friends, is the sound of one hand clapping. A. J. Liebling offers a complementary view, more concise and stripped of paradox, which runs: “The only way to write is well, and how you do it is your own damn business.” Learning to write sound, interesting, sometimes elegant prose is the work of a lifetime. The only way I know to do it is to read a vast deal of the best writing available, prose and poetry, with keen attention, and find a way to make use of this reading in one’s own writing. The first step is to become a slow reader.  Read the full article here