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 Post subject: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2004 7:53 pm 
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I can't talk this story off my page, so I shall vent of my spleen here.<p> <blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>WASHINGTON (AP) — The retail price of gasoline hit an all-time high Tuesday ...<hr></blockquote><p>No, it didn't.


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2004 12:11 am 
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Yes, it did, in absolute terms. As nice as it would be to adjust everything for inflation, we don't. <p>I do wish, however, that the third or fourth graf of every "XXX reached an all-time low/high" did such a comparison. It would be useful.<p>
<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by newsdesigner.com:
I can't talk this story off my page, so I shall vent of my spleen here.<p> <p>No, it didn't.<hr></blockquote>


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2004 12:37 am 
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Such price comparisons should always take inflation into account; otherwise they are meaningless. Some editors included references to inflation but inexplicably left references to the "record-high price of gasoline" in leads:<p>WASHINGTON, March 23 — The record-high price of gasoline has suddenly become one of the most contentious issues here, with presidential candidates and members of Congress rushing to assign blame and propose ways to lower voters' costs at the gas pump.
As senators called on the Bush administration on Tuesday to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help curb prices, Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, accused President Bush of neglecting energy conservation and favoring oil companies. The Bush re-election campaign blamed Mr. Kerry for voting against oil drilling in Alaska last year and for his past advocacy of higher gasoline taxes.
"It's clear we need a new energy policy," Mr. Kerry said. He cited a survey released Tuesday by AAA, formerly the American Automobile Association, showing that the average price for a gallon of self-serve regular unleaded was $1.738. The group said the price was a record, not taking into account inflation.
(New York Times)<p>[ March 24, 2004: Message edited by: blanp ]</p>


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2004 8:27 am 
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The price of gas hit a dollar figure it's never reached before. That's an all-time high. Later in the story we can talk about the adjustment for inflation, and we all know things cost more now than they used to, but getting literal about such matters can be a distraction. (Just look at the chart that is linked to.)<p>It's not really wrong either way, but the purist's argument here strikes me as crossing into the realm of splitting hairs.


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2004 12:55 pm 
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Getting excited about such a bogus "all-time high" is like celebrating the record-high salaries of copy editors in Great Falls, Mont.<p>The chart does an excellent job of illustrating the price of gasoline, but few newspapers will bother to adapt it for their readers because it shows clearly that their "Record-High Gas Prices" headlines are wrong.


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2004 1:07 pm 
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Now wait a darned minute.<p>I'm on JJ's side with this one. The comparison of prices with inflation taken into consideration is, of course, an important part of the story.<p>But the price of gas IS at an all-time high. Period. The actual total of cash paid out at for a gallon of gas is higher than it ever has been. <p>The "inflation" stuff doesn't negate the fact that you now pay MORE THAN EVER for a gallon of gas. When I was a kid, Clark bars were a nickel. Lot of money for me then. Now they're...well, I don't eat them, so I don't know. But I daresay the price is at an all-time high, and to claim that "adjusted for Jarboe inflation," or whatever, that the nickel candy bar "was at an all-time high" is absurd, as is the claim that adjusted-for-inflation gas was at an all-time high.<p>Would I have let "all-time high" in the paper? You bet, and I will if it goes up again next week.<p>[ March 24, 2004: Message edited by: Bumfketeer ]</p>


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2004 1:37 pm 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Bumfketeer:
<p>The "inflation" stuff doesn't negate the fact that you now pay MORE THAN EVER for a gallon of gas. <hr></blockquote><p>At the risk of being repetitive: Yes, it does, and no, you don't. We do readers a disservice by misleading them about what a "dollar" represents.


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2004 1:39 pm 
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Prices of all sorts of things reach "all-time highs" constantly. Reporting on that fact alone, in addition to being meaningless, may obscure the actual truth. If Social Security payments increased, say, 3 percent a year and inflation was 5 percent, the real story is that SS payments are down. Would we let the government get away with boasting they're at an all-time high?


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2004 1:50 pm 
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Well, say what you will, but I stand by my outrageous claim that $2 is more than $1, and thus the "price" of gas is higher at $2 than it was at $1.


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2004 1:52 pm 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Bumfketeer:
Well, say what you will, but I stand by my outrageous claim that $2 is more than $1, and thus the "price" of gas is higher at $2 than it was at $1.<hr></blockquote><p>And that is the fallacy splashed all over today's newspapers.


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2004 1:52 pm 
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Well, say what you will, but I stand by my outrageous belief at $2 is more than $1.<p>"How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?"


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2004 2:01 pm 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Bumfketeer:
Well, say what you will, but I stand by my outrageous belief at $2 is more than $1.<p>"How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?"<hr></blockquote><p>That's the sort of thinking that leads people to keep their money stuffed into mattresses. A "dollar" has no intrinsic value.<p>[ March 24, 2004: Message edited by: blanp ]</p>


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2004 2:15 pm 
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Adam Smith, anyone?<p>Labour alone, therefore, never varying its own value, is alone the ultimate and real standard by which the value of all commodities can at all time and places be estimated and compared. It is their real price; money is their nominal price only.


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2004 2:30 pm 
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The Cato Institute has a nice summary of the fallacy. The judgment that gasoline is "affordable," of course, is open to debate, as is the reference to "economically dysfunctional high-energy tax policies" in Europe. Nicole Stockdale added a helpful link to InflationData.com, which, in turn, links to Chart of the Day.<p>Image<p>[ March 24, 2004: Message edited by: blanp ]</p>


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2004 3:26 pm 
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In a similar vein: Mel Gibson's Jesus picture has a long way to go before it passes the all-time box office champion of religious movies.


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2004 3:40 pm 
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In a similar vein: Mel Gibson's Jesus picture has a long way to go before it passes the all-time box office champion of religious movies.<p>How depressing, Thunderball and Spiderman both brought in more adjusted dollars than American Graffiti and Blazing Saddles. Says something about the movie-going public...


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2004 7:25 pm 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by blanp:
The Cato Institute has a nice summary of the fallacy. <hr></blockquote>
Good stuff. I'm reminded of thr film in which the editor says don't tell them about econimics tell them about the price if gas. Anyone recall which one?


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2004 8:44 pm 
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Sounds like it could be Network.


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2004 9:05 pm 
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It's either Deadline USA or The Front Page.


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 31, 2004 3:40 pm 
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Newsdesigner and Blanp are right.<p>It's absurdly misleading to track nominal prices over the long run and draw inferences about "record highs" without reference to general inflation and wage trends.<p>The bogus "record high" references are akin to reporting that goods are more expensive in Canada than the U.S. because they cost more "dollars."<p>[ March 31, 2004: Message edited by: SeaRaven ]</p>


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 31, 2004 4:44 pm 
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An AP story today about OPEC reducing its production quota backs off the record-high claim. Several paragraphs deep it says:
Gasoline prices climbed to a nominal record average of $1.80 a gallon nationwide, according to the latest Lundberg survey of 8,000 stations across the United States. But that was still below the inflation-adjusted record set in March 1981, Lundberg said. The March 1981 combined average for all grades was about $1.38, the equivalent of $2.85 in today's dollars. <p>I'm not sure "nominal" is the right word, but AP surely is on the right track. Part of the problem is that the stories that triggered this thread were based on a survey by AAA , which trumpeted the "record-high prices" claim, which was parrotted by nearly everyone.


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 31, 2004 5:09 pm 
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"Nominal" is the correct term but instead of "inflation-adjusted" I would suggest using "in real terms" or some variance. It is important to point out that "nominal" economic data is not the same thing as "real" data. However, I can also see how a general news audience may not immediately understand this, so an explanation graph of why the two numbers are not the same may be in order.


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Wed Mar 31, 2004 8:45 pm 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Bumfketeer:
Well, say what you will, but I stand by my outrageous claim that $2 is more than $1, and thus the "price" of gas is higher at $2 than it was at $1.<hr></blockquote>
That's all well and good, but you're mis-applying the rule. $2 is only more than $1 when you're using the same "$", which we're not. Unless you're also planning to plug the same banner headlines about the price of a cup of coffee running at an all-time high, it's misleading to suggest to readers that this is truly an "all-time high."<p>To put more fuel on the fire, do you see the need to qualify baseball players' home-run records when they use steroids or have seasons of lengths inconsistent with prior years? All the caterwauling that was done about Mark McGwire's use of play-enhancing drugs during his home-run race with Sammy Sosa, and you don't see the need to accurately represent the price of gasoline in the same fashion?


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2004 11:47 am 
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Paul Wiggins reminds us that we usually fail to put U.S. gas prices in global perspective with an excerpt from his Australian newspaper:<p>The US media has recently reported huge increases in the cost of fuelling the world's biggest and thirstiest cars. They bemoan petrol hitting $US1.80 a gallon. That equates to about 63 cents a litre. Sad, ain't it! [Sydneysiders pay 90 cents to 96 cents a litre at the moment]


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2004 12:16 pm 
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Oh, I'd agree with Wiggins wholeheartedly. Most Americans have no idea what gas costs overseas, and if they did, they would quit whining (or whinging, as you prefer) about prices here. When I visited France in '99, gas was about $6 U.S. an imperial gallon (imperial gallons are a slightly different measurement, but I think $6 was what the conversion worked out to). It cost my friend about $60 U.S. to fill up the tank in her tiny Volkswagen Beetle (yes, a real Volkswagen Beetle that had survived to the '90s).


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2004 1:32 pm 
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I think it's a misguided generalization to say most people don't know that the price of gas is higher abroad than it is here. Everyone I know knows that.<p>Damn, did I just extend this thread again?


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2004 9:04 pm 
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"When dollar amounts are compared across time, it is usually a good idea to detrend the figures by taking out the effect of inflation.<p>". . . And yet accountants don't like to . . . detrend because of the element of uncertainty that it introduces into their work. Corporate balance sheets seldom show the effect of inflation. Press releases boasting of record profits sometimes show profits that would be below historic levels if constant dollar comparisons were made. Labor leaders have made the same idle boasts, taking credit for gains that are really losses when they are detrended for inflation."<p>The New Precision Journalism, Philip Meyer, 1991, pp. 27-8.


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2004 9:07 pm 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by jjmoney62:
[QB]I think it's a misguided generalization to say most people don't know that the price of gas is higher abroad than it is here. Everyone I know knows that.
QB]<hr></blockquote><p>Everyone doesn't know it. "Everyone" doesn't know anything. In any broad story about gas prices the prices in other parts of the world should be noted for comparison.


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2004 10:11 pm 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by blanp:
<p>Everyone doesn't know it. "Everyone" doesn't know anything. In any broad story about gas prices the prices in other parts of the world should be noted for comparison.<hr></blockquote><p>Is someone putting you up to this?
** I don't know that many people.
** I honestly don't know a soul who doesn't know that gas is more expensive abroad.
** I was responding to this statement: "Most Americans have no idea what gas costs overseas."
** That is a fallacy. It's a broad generalization. It's an outdated notion. It's a quaint thing to think.
** I'll grant you taking issue with my "everyone I know" statement, but it's baffling that you could take that exchange and then suggest that either one of us would disagree with your rather obvious observation: "In any broad story about gas prices the prices in other parts of the world should be noted for comparison."<p>Really, Phil. I, too, love you like few people on the planet, but you're going to strain something if you keep up with these non sequiturs.


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2004 10:47 pm 
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You're reading too much into all this. Really.


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2004 10:53 pm 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Bumfketeer:
Would I have let "all-time high" in the paper? You bet, and I will if it goes up again next week.
<hr></blockquote><p>Sigh. Didn't I teach you anything, or much of anything? To think that you did so well on how to edit a lottery jackpot story, steering clear of the bogus reasoning that otherwise turns copy editors into millionaires.


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Sat Apr 03, 2004 8:37 am 
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JJ, I don't feel strongly at all about backing up my statement about most Americans not knowing the cost of gas overseas. I'm very amused by your and Phil's give and take on this thread.<p>You think most Americans would know the cost of gas overseas, so I ask: Do you really believe if Jay Leno in one of his "Jaywalking" segments asked 50 people whether gas is more or less expensive in Europe that even five would have a firm opinion, much less the right answer? He could well get 25 "more"s and 25 "less"es.<p>Granted, those 50 people might not even be able to tell Jay what a gallon of gasoline costs here, but still.<p>[ April 03, 2004: Message edited by: wordygurdy ]</p>


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Sat Apr 03, 2004 2:12 pm 
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We should all acknowledge that our circles of friends aren't representative of the population as a whole. Think, for example: What percentage of the adults you know have bachelor's degrees or advanced degrees? The national average is 24.4 percent, according to the Census Bureau.<p>I won't pretend to know what the hypothetical average American citizen knows on this subject -- but it's certainly true that many Americans don't know that gasoline is more expensive abroad. An average cost per U.S. gallon in other industrialized nations would be helpful to readers.


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Sat Apr 03, 2004 3:23 pm 
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From wordygurdy:
"Do you really believe if Jay Leno in one of his 'Jaywalking' segments asked 50 people whether gas is more or less expensive in Europe that even five would have a firm opinion, much less the right answer?"
<p>Jay Leno's bits are not representative of anything except his television program, which is no reflection of reality.<p>From Dapper Dan:
"We should all acknowledge that our circles of friends aren't representative of the population as a whole."
<p>Yes. Thank you. <p>My European friends (who are not representative of all of Europeans) tell me that Americans are myopic to the point of being certifiably disabled. <p>I do not think that one in 10 Americans (I'm being generous) know which is more expensive -- fuel in America, or fuel in Europe (or anywhere else). I am quite sure that fewer than one in a thousand care.<p>Which brings us back to the point of this thread. It's important to put statistics in perspective. <p>If statistics aren't useful, let's not use them. In order to be useful, they should clearly put things into perspective.<p>My boss [who I respect, and not just because he reads this board (ahem)] disagrees with me when I say adjusting statistics for inflation is crucial. <p>I suspect that's why I haven't had a "raise" that's kept up with the cost of living in years.<p>[ April 03, 2004: Message edited by: grouch_in_training ]</p>


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Sat Apr 03, 2004 4:06 pm 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by grouch_in_training:

My boss [who I respect, and not just because he reads this board (ahem)] disagrees with me when I say adjusting statistics for inflation is crucial.
<hr></blockquote><p>How could anyone who follows this board disagree?


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Sat Apr 03, 2004 6:24 pm 
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I forgot: Does Al read this board before his ? morning meeting?<p>He writes, "Milk, butter, chocolate and vanilla are all reaching record highs." And the he quotes an AP story that says: <blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr> The so-called base price for about 100 pounds of milk -- roughly 12 gallons -- used to produce cheese was $14.40 in March; by April it should reach $18.59.<p>That would break the previous record price of $17 set in December 1998, shattering a two-year trend of low milk prices at a time of year when prices generally are weakest, said Bob Cropp, a UW-Madison dairy marketing economist.
<hr></blockquote><p>Hmmm, $17 in 1998 equals ... $19.37 today. Certainly not as egregious as the gas example, but worth keeping in mind.


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 Post subject: Re: Bad attack of gas
PostPosted: Thu Apr 08, 2004 11:24 pm 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by wordygurdy:
Do you really believe if Jay Leno in one of his "Jaywalking" segments asked 50 people whether gas is more or less expensive in Europe that even five would have a firm opinion, much less the right answer? He could well get 25 "more"s and 25 "less"es.<hr></blockquote><p>I suspect most of the 50 people who had been to Europe (OK, so maybe 6) would firmly say it's much more expensive in the states. Of course, this would be because they didn't realize it was priced in liters.


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