“The Power of Bad” was written by John Tierney and Roy Baumeister and published by Penguin Press last year.
Power of Bad, I thought. Certainly has to have some applicability for our modern crisis. Because the “negativity effect” is well-documented and we are genetically wired to respond hyper-vigilantly to threats, because as the introduction points out, “One mistake can still kill you. One enemy can still make your life miserable. One loss can erase many previous gains. Paying extra attention to threats still makes evolutionary sense. But our fine-tuned sense of bad can be debilitating. What worked for hunter-gatherers doesn’t always work for us.”
Because we tend to exaggerate danger. And these days, there are plenty of willing accomplices to repeat the fear and danger back to you, and to amplify it.
“News coverage of a danger creates public fear, inspiring further coverage and more fear, which is why 40% of Americans worry that they or a family member will die in a terrorist attack.”
Speaking of terrorist attacks, take a one-off catastrophe like 9/11. So many people were terrified of flying after 9/11 that they decided they’d drive versus fly when taking their next vacation. The result: an estimated 1,600 extra vehicular deaths, since driving is statistically more dangerous than flying.
Or consider the overreaction that led the United States into invading Iraq over perceived weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to exist. This is an example of what Tierney and Baumeister refer to as The Crisis Crisis, “the never-ending series of hyped threats leading to actions that leave everyone worse off.”
A whole chapter, in fact, is devoted to The Crisis Crisis. Here’s the chapter’s introduction, verbatim:
Whether you’re absorbing today’s bad news or contemplating the future of humanity, we suggest starting off with three assumptions:
1. The world will always seem to be in crisis.
2. The crisis is never as bad as it sounds
3. The solution could easily make things worse.
Then, “We’re convinced the biggest problem of all, the greatest obstacle to freedom and prosperity, is the exploitation of people’s negativity bias by crisis-mongers. It’s the worst social consequence of the negativity effect. By continually fomenting fears, the prophets of doom have profoundly distorted the public’s view of the present and future.”
And then they let the great philosopher H.L. Mencken drop the hammer. “The whole aim of practical politics,” Mencken wrote, “is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”
And while it would be folly to describe the current pandemic as imaginary, I’m starting to hear some rumblings, some restlessness. Because as things progress, there’s risk of growing divide between the decision-makers (who are all getting paid. It’s easy to err on the side of caution when you’re getting paid), and the small business owners who are bleeding profusely.
And it was with some bemusement that I learned Thursday that the much-hyped PPP (Payment Protection Plan) fund for small business has already been tapped. Hite tells me the Small Businesses Administration’s website currently says, “The SBA is currently unable to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program based on available appropriations funding.” Wow. $350 billion in an eyelash. I can only imagine how those funds are earmarked.
“Let’s see here … application from Ohio. Check. Michigan. Check. Remember, Lenny, any application from a battleground state gets approved. Wisconsin. Check. Nevada. Check. California (laughter). Not a chance!”
I spoke to one Mammoth real estate veteran (not Paul Oster or Matthew Lehman) who described the local market as being “frozen in time.” No one’s calling on either the buy or sell side. Everyone’s in stasis. Waiting.
And of course, that’s the conventional wisdom on the political side. Tests, tests, tests and an insistence that we must remain frozen in time and entombed in our respective bunkers until the God of Data reveals the correct path.
From this same realtor: Where is Mammoth Mountain in all this? Completely absent. You’d think the company could afford to send a few people down to town to do something. Fly the flag. Maybe distribute 20,000 Mammoth-branded facemasks.
Except that gem of an announcement this week saying they’d sell you a basic Ikon pass renewal at a $100 discount and a no-black out renewal at a $200 discount.
No mention of refunds for 2019-2020 or potential refunds for 2020-2021 if the season is subject to coitus, er, coronavirus interruptus.
To be fair, I spoke to my old boss Joani Lynch Thursday and she assured me that due to the volume of thoughtful feedback from passholders, Alterra will be coming out with an update announcement (likely addressing pricing, refunds, et. al. The company may be lumbering and slow-footed but it is anything but dimwitted), but consider. For 2019-2020, MMSA opened on November 9. If the lamest of ski seasons closes May 25, MMSA was open for 127/199 potential days this year, or about 64%.
MMSA would argue that business just dies after Easter and doesn’t really start until Thanksgiving, so let’s be generous and say it was open for 108/137 peak season days or 79%. Pricing 2020-2021 renewals at 79% of 2019-2020 prices should therefore be $473 for a basic Ikon pass (as opposed to the $100 off $499 “deal”). Further, Alterra should promise to refund potential missed peak days in 2020-2021 in the event of a corona shutdown recurrence.
I can’t see one person buying an Ikon pass until Alterra comes very, very clean on its refund policy. Frankly, they should be refunding $125 for 2019-2020 up front, and then charging the full price for 2020-2021. Don’t link the seasons. Or pretend that canceling the remainder of 2019-2020 prematurely while keeping all the Ikon ticket revenue is ethical.
Okay, I got sidetracked. Maybe that’s the point.
One final point (okay, maybe a few) on the reopen/how/when debate.
Mammoth Hospital CEO Tom Parker is quoted on page four as saying, “What does recovery and reopening look like in a graduated way so that we don’t create a second wave worse than the first?”
My reaction. There was a hardly a first wave. How can you even refer to it as a first wave? And the hospital is a ghost town right now. I hear the employees are bored out of their skulls and playing Scrabble during their shifts.
Stop pretending about the surge that never was.
But more important, looking ahead. The local population got the memo. It understands the distancing, the washing, the whole trying-to-maintain-a-facade-and-not-sleep-together-on-the-first-date aspect of sidestepping COVID-19.
We live in the perfect place to reopen fairly soon (May 15?) in a measured way. Our customers largely come here (with the exception of those attending various festivals which won’t exist this summer) for the purpose of hiking and fishing and creating social distance from their fellow, grating, human beings.
And in restaurants, parties are generally six feet apart anyway.
As for the bar crowd, maybe tell ‘em not to visit their grandparents at Shady Acres within a month of their last binge.
From MLT Insights: National Tourism Discussions
According to U.S. Travel’s Weekly Travel Data Report, travel spending in the U.S. fell once again in the week ending April 4 as non-essential travel has plummeted over the past month.
National weekly travel spending dropped to just $3.3 billion last week. This is down from $19.8 billion during the first week of March.
The week ending April 4 suffered an $18.6 billion loss in travel spending. This is an 85% drop from last year’s levels, marking a continued decline in the travel economy as most of the country implements various lockdown measures.
With now five weeks of evident COVID-19 impact, the U.S. travel economy has lost $60.8 billion. More than $36 billion (60%) of these losses have been realized in the past two weeks.
In just the week ending April 4, travel spending registered $18.6 billion lower than the same week a year ago.
At the outset of the crisis, MLT Executive Director John Urdi, per Visit California, predicted just a 15-20% immediate impact.
On the subject of affirmative action for marketing employees, this was the latest fundraising ask from MLT:
“First and foremost, we at Mammoth Lakes Tourism hope you and your loved ones are weathering these uncertain times as best as you can. We continue to be amazed at the resiliency of our community and are proud to say we are all working together to help crush the curve in Mono County.
The Mammoth Lakes Tourism Food Bank continues chugging along. Our stats from April 8 show that in the time that we have been open since March 23 we have served 2,080 households and an estimated 7,312 adults, with an average of 3.5 adults per household.
At roughly $7,500-$10,000 per day in expenses, this amount will fund us for potentially three weeks of operations. Additionally, the extra $50,000 pledged by the MLT Board of Directors will keep operations running for potentially another one and a half to two weeks.
Our goal is to get the donation level to $200,000 in an effort to feed our community through June. With an average of 1,000 people fed each day, we feel this is an effort that is making a difference for the tourism workers in our community who are struggling through these tough times.”
*Note: The Sheet has made a public records request asking for the donor list and amount of the $78,000 raised by MLT.
*P.S: Given MLT’s payroll, which is in excess of $20,000/week, if MLT had done nothing more than lay off its entire staff on March 23, it would have realized $200,000 in cost savings by June 1 which could have entirely funded the Food Bank without asking for a penny in donations or funding from reserves.
Laid off staff would have received unemployment plus $600/week via the CARES Act.
As of Thursday evening, Mono County had reported a total of 23 positive cases of Covid-19 with 104 negative test results and 7 pending. The total deaths as a result of the virus remains at one.
Earlier in the week, Mono Public Health Officer Tom Boo and EOC information officer Stuart Brown issued a joint release ordering all employees in essential businesses to wear face coverings.
“We anticipate masking to become our new normal in the time of the pandemic, and that physical distancing and other mitigations must continue even after the Stay At Home Order is lifted. We are experiencing some respite, but we are clearly not out of the woods yet. You may say we have a bit of a ceasefire, but the war is not over,” said Dr. Boo
Mammoth Mountain Community Foundation is leading the community effort to gather and donate protective equipment for hospital staff. Email email@example.com about volunteering.
As of April 14, 2020, Inyo County has 17 cases of COVID-19. There have been five more confirmed cases in the past five days. “All five patients are currently isolated at home.”
Since the last release on April 9 there have been 31 more tests bringing the total negative tests to 147. 21 tests are pending. .
Get the latest information by visiting inyocounty.us/covid-19