Justin Bieber’s New Haircut

Many years ago, during The Roe v. Wade Fight (Part II: The Rise of the Right Wing Yahoos) a student came to me and asked for a break because she wanted to join a bus full of Brandeis students heading down to DC to protest stuff. I told her not to worry about the quiz coming up, just go and do her civic duty. That’s when she chose to casually mention that “at least these days, we know how to do it, not like in the old days when protesters against the Viet Nam War were violent.

This caused me to whup her up side the head. Verbally, of course.

I explained that in the old old days, when the population spoke up against authority, their villages were burned and people were randomly identified as trouble makers and impaled on stakes. I talked about the early union protests, and how one workers’ village was burned to the ground with the women and children hiding in the wooden houses. I mentioned the US Amy using machines guns on veterans protesting for their rights in Washington. And so on. And, eventually I pointed out that the reason she could drag her sorry ass down to DC and have a nice peaceful protest was because of her fore-bearers, not because she and her friends had “figured something out.” Previous protesters stood in front of onrushing mounted police or railed against soldiers carrying live ammo knowing a) “I might be killed” and b) “If I am killed, it will reduce the chance that the state will be able to use these techniques on future generations of snot-nosed privileged Harvard undergrads.”

But at least, she wasn’t primarily interested in the 1980s equivalent of Justin Bieber’s New Haircut. So, now that I have your attention, here are a few current news stories:

Next item: Are you on Facebook? Do you work for the gummit (including universities, schools, etc.)? Go paste this as your status:

“I am a public employee. I am not the problem. Wall Street made billions, crashed the economy, ruined lives and got bailed out. Average Americans followed the rules and got thrown to the wolves. Teachers, librarians, police officers, paramedics, firefighters, and others are NOT the enemy. We live here, pay taxes, work hard, and contribute to the health of the community. If you are a public employee, copy and re-post.”

And, if Justin Bieber’s New Haircut really is still more interesting to you than the end of civilization as we know it, here’s what it looks like:

i-d29c5a8914b3da23e3a0bb8aae2558f9-bieber_Ellen.jpg

I’m told he’s the one on the left. That is all.

i-af727314bb91def34a44e4261c14ccca-PleaseClickOnThisStuff.jpg

Comments

  1. #1 Drivebyposter
    February 26, 2011

    That’s a pretty fucking sweet haircut.

  2. #2 paige fox
    February 26, 2011

    I AM A REALY BIG FAN OF JUSTIN BEIBER AND I THINK IT IS THE BEST THING FOR HIS CARRER I TRYED TO GET TICKETS TO HIS CONSERT BUT THEY WHERE ALL SOLD OUT MY NAME IS PAIGE FOX AND I LIVE IN IRELAND CO. WICKLOW 58 LATHLER THE TOP PART

  3. #3 Sili, The Unknown Virgin. Of Death.
    February 26, 2011

    Iono. I like the bloke on the right better. Might have something to do with the tumbler of gin he’s waving about.

  4. #4 gwen
    February 26, 2011

    I never thought of myself as working for the gummit, but I suppose working for a university hospital counts…. I’m reposting now.

  5. #5 Heather
    February 26, 2011

    Go, Greg! I am a public employee …. in France. I have “friends” from all over the social horizon. I will be very interested in how many of them unfriend me once I post that status. And I will.

    I loved your response to your student years ago. You know, I think I was one of those marchers, actually – 12 hour bus ride from Boston. I went for something. It feels rather useless, now. Wish I were in Wisconsin (as opposed to Libya, where people are STILL paying with their lives for the right to protest).

  6. #6 Ella Cain
    February 26, 2011

    Wow I think he still looks grate with the haircut

  7. #7 Sid
    February 26, 2011

    Well played, sir. I was wondering what the hell Justin Beaver and his atrocious hair have to do with science.

  8. #8 Phillip IV
    February 26, 2011

    It’s quite OK, I guess. I like it better than his old haircut, but I was actually hoping for something of a bolder departure. Something more contemporary, with more pizzazz, if you know what I mean.

  9. #9 sarah moon
    February 26, 2011

    I lov his new hair cut and his new movie and Im nowa huge fan of him ! <3

  10. #10 brittany
    February 26, 2011

    I LOVE HIS FREAKIN HAIR CUT!!!!

  11. #11 Drivebyposter
    February 26, 2011

    I am thoroughly excited by the influx of stupid teenage girl readers you apparently have now.

  12. #12 Edward Coburn
    February 26, 2011

    he can change his style however many times he wants to, but every person who was blessed with a penis will still think he’s a complete ass..

  13. #13 Joel
    February 26, 2011

    blessed with a penis

    Huh? I’ve always thought it a curse.

  14. #14 Alison
    February 26, 2011

    I am a big fan of Justin and a big fan of his hair but I think his Jew cut is his his best choice but just because he has different hair doesn’t change who he is. He is still the amazing Justin I know

  15. #15 haley
    February 26, 2011

    justin bebber you are the sexey boy ever and i love you so mush then slena gomza

  16. #16 Sheniquah Garcia Goldberg
    February 26, 2011

    I find the comment about Justin,s Jew hair a little offensive. Myself being a quarter Afro American quarter Hispanic and half Jewish, my fathers side btw, he has jungle fever, I find it highly offensive. Justin’s hair isn’t nearly as good as a Jews. My weave covers my god given Jew fro, but I still love it. Justin is the worst excuse for a performer I have ever seen. He is a hot honky but his vocals could use a little black in it. Usher is a sexy man and his singing is amazing. Thank you,night y’all!

  17. #17 Greg Laden
    February 26, 2011

    I was assuming that was supposed to be “New” hair and something went wrong with the spell checker. Otherwise, I simply don’t get the reference. WTF is “Jew Hair”? … No, she must have meant to say “new hair” .. the “j” is right jext to the n.

  18. #18 tammy
    February 27, 2011

    I have no idea who this kid is. It is moments like this when I am very happy that I am living under a rock outside of the US.

    well played, indeed, sir. refreshing to read text from someone who exercises his brain and speaks frankly. your blog has been quite a pleasant discovery. thank you.

  19. #19 clamcyp
    February 27, 2011

    What is a justin bieber? And why?

  20. #20 Stu N
    February 27, 2011

    clamcyp:

    A Justin bieber is something that biebers Justins:

    bieber
    v. biebered, bieber·ing, biebers

    To sneak up behind someone and give them an unexpected reach-around.

  21. #21 Newlyhuman
    February 27, 2011

    Ha! Made me look to see what the heck this headline was doing in Scienceblogs. Good post!

  22. #22 Corkscrew
    February 27, 2011

    Regards “The Wisconsin Lie Exposed”, the author appears to be an idiot. He is describing the Wisconsin public-sector scheme(s) as if they are Defined Contribution, when as far as I can tell they’re Defined Benefit.

    Quick summary. In a Defined Contribution scheme, the employee and employer pay money into a personal pot, which is used to buy units of various investment funds. When the employee retires, the units are sold and an annuity is purchased with the proceeds. It’s basically a stock portfolio in a tax-friendly wrapper.

    In a Defined Benefit scheme, the employee and employer pay money into a communal pot, which is used to buy annuities for employees as and when they retire. The annuity value is not directly related to the payments made; it’s calculated according to a strict formula (e.g. final salary x years of employment / 60).

    The main difference from the employer’s perspective is that, for Defined Benefit schemes, you have to maintain reserves. This is to cover the risk that your current investment pot won’t grow fast enough to cover the formula-calculated liabilities. Whenever the pot is too low-valued, it’s the employer’s responsibility to top it up.

    Why are Defined Benefit schemes so popular in the public sector? Three reasons, none of them flattering.

    1. It’s hard for the general public to get their head round the value of DB pensions, so boosting employee pension rather than pay leads to fewer “OMG they’re earning HOW MUCH???” headlines.

      For example the the UK Prime Minister’s pension is 50% of salary, and he/she still gets it even if he/she is in power for as little as a day. This means that most Prime Ministers will be receiving several times their actual salary in pension benefits over their term in office. No-one really noticed until recently.

    2. Since any reserve top-ups will probably occur further down the line (i.e. after the current administration moves on), the state has no particular interest in being careful with the size of their reserve. It’s somebody else’s problem. Union officials aren’t as short-termist.

      For an extreme example, in Greece they hand out public-sector pensions in specially marked boxes of cereal. These liabilities were held “off the books” in a mildly fraudulent fashion so that Greece’s balance sheet would look good enough for them to join the Euro.

    3. By making rather… liberal assumptions about things like investment growth, you can make Defined Benefit schemes look less scary to fund than they actually are.

      For example, the NHS pension scheme is the largest occupational pension scheme in Europe, and totally unfunded (which means it’s basically a Ponzi scheme with taxpayers preventing it crashing). Recently there was serious debate over the choice of discount rate to use to value it.

      This may sound incredibly academic, but the decision to use a more appropriate rate added £13bn (6.5% of total) to the scheme liabilities. All covered by the taxpayer, of course.

    In conclusion… well, as I said, the author is apparently an idiot. The only good point he made is that this situation is entirely of the state’s own making. Effectively DB schemes are a way for the state and the unions to collude in ripping off future generations of taxpayers.

    Disclaimer: IANAL. Terms like “collude” should not be construed as actual allegations of illegal behaviour, especially as I don’t know the specifics of the situation. However I am sitting the UK actuarial exams, so I’ve been reading a lot about this stuff lately.

    For another perspective see this Economist article.

  23. #23 lauren
    February 27, 2011

    justin bieber , i love ur new hair cut . i would love to touch it lol jks . ur a amazing people , but u might think she dont even know me that well . but u have a great hair cut . just thinking why did u want to charge ur hair ?? please get back to me please …… email address
    laurenpettit@hotmail.co.uk

    thanks you for reading this byeeee :)

  24. #24 Corkscrew
    February 27, 2011
  25. #25 Stephanie Z
    February 27, 2011

    Corkscrew, get screwed.

    The biggest reason to favor DB retirement plans in the public sector is that they are a much more efficient way of providing retirement benefits–more bang for the buck–for employees who do not change employers many times during their career. Teachers, police, prosecutors, auditors, etc. don’t move around a lot. That means it costs the states who employ them less to fund their retirement under DB plans.

    That union employees opt to fund their participation in these plans at an agreed-upon rate doesn’t make them DC plans, but it also doesn’t mean the state is helpless. It gets to renegotiate the terms of participation with every negotiation cycle. The state will work with its actuaries each time to determine the employee’s cost to participate. Although the risk and reward belong to the state, if it does its job correctly, the state never pays.

    As for your individual points:

    1. Nobody in a union vests (earns a right to their pension that they don’t give up by quitting) in a day. Generally more three to five years, sometimes graded (20% first year, etc.). That’s something reserved for elected officials and corporate executives. Bringing up in this context is downright dishonest.

    2. Fraud always sucks. Your point, aside from the fact that we should make sure our politicians read the reports they’re given?

    3. By your reasoning, Social Security is nothing but a Ponzi scheme since the funds aren’t held in marked accounts. I’ll let you argue with the rest of the world about how you’d like to dismantle Social Security.

    Also, it doesn’t require particularly rosy assumptions for a decent funding outlook. Does it require ongoing payment into the system? Yes. However, before the economic downturns in 2001-2002 and 2008, many of these plans were already well-funded. How well-funded they would have been without the presence of large economic bubbles in the market is hard to say, as their investment choices would almost certainly have been different and as the collapse of those bubbles sent shock waves through the rest of the economy that broadened their impact.

    Either way, much of what you’re seeing now in terms of dismal projections and increased contributions reflects the fact that owners of large pension plans, both private and public, are taking steps to hedge the risks involved with their investments. They’re doing it because they have to, given the wild variability we’re seeing in our largely unregulated markets. If you’d like to fix this, consider implementing regulation rather than simply shifting the consequences of its lack further down the chain.

    Why? Actually, the answer for that one is very simple. Unless you’re one of the very, very few people who is in a position to create financial instruments, collectivizing the responsibility for risk makes you better off. Those people you’re considering screwing over every time the economy wobbles are the people who keep it moving. Whether their existence is subsistence or something more moves markets on a broad scale, in a way the “movers and shakers” can only achieve by messing things up very badly. There’s a reason economic indicators don’t have anything to with hedge fund managers and trust fund babies.

    And while you’re out there campaigning for more regulations, you should probably get pissed about the overly rosy earnings assumptions that DC plan participants are consistently being exposed to. In a country where the long-term market returns (for index funds, which tend to outperform honest individual investors) have been about 2% over inflation, DC participants are frequently encouraged to model their own savings based on returns around 4% over inflation. That and those tax cuts given to those who largely don’t create jobs are going to be a much bigger problem in the long run.

  26. #26 Greg Laden
    February 27, 2011

    Stephanie, thanks for your input. I was just about to email you to ask for your expertise here.

  27. #27 Thomas
    February 27, 2011

    Wow, amazing post. Amazing reactions (go beavers!).
    Seriously, it’s always good to get a reminder of human rights and achievements, and the need to learn from and remember history (and I’m from Germany, which got some extreme history of its own. My grandfather spend decades talking bout, and cursing, his own small-scale WW2/Nazi contributions. I’ve got some Oral History lessons…)

  28. #28 Thomas
    February 27, 2011

    Wow, amazing post. Amazing reactions (go beavers!).
    Seriously, it’s always good to get a reminder of human rights and achievements, and the need to learn from and remember history (and I’m from Germany, which got some extreme history of its own. My grandfather spend decades talking bout, and cursing, his own small-scale WW2/Nazi contributions. I’ve got some Oral History lessons…)

  29. #29 QL
    February 28, 2011

    I would just like to point out, that I only came here to see why in the hell scienceblogs had become a teenybopper website. Thankfully, it was all a clever ruse.

    Well played, Mr. Laden.

  30. #30 bcoppola
    February 28, 2011

    My late wife was a public employee (K-12 teacher); I receive half her pension (yearly take = about a day’s pay or less for a Wall St. Master of the Universe). I’ll be posting that as my status with appropriate changes.

  31. #31 bcoppola
    February 28, 2011

    …aaand, here’s my edited version for family members of public employees or retirees. Meets FBs 420 character limit. Not sure about the proper use of ‘am’ in 1st sentence as edited. Hey, she was the teacher, not me!

    I (or a family member), am/was a public employee. Wall Street made billions, crashed the economy, ruined lives and got bailed out. Average Americans followed the rules and got thrown to the wolves. Teachers, librarians, police officers, paramedics, firefighters, etc. are NOT the enemy. We live here, pay taxes, work hard, and contribute to the community. If you or someone you love is a public employee, copy & re-post.

  32. #32 Corkscrew
    March 1, 2011

    Stephanie, some of this comment will be below your level. I’m not being patronising, just making it easy for spectators to follow.

    I’m also going well beyond my training, so please consider this a private-citizen kind of comment rather than an Official Actuarial Opinion.

    The biggest reason to favor DB retirement plans in the public sector is that they are a much more efficient way of providing retirement benefits–more bang for the buck–for employees who do not change employers many times during their career.

    I think you’re conflating two different issues. DB schemes are harder to transfer into, but I understood that to be mostly because a DB scheme’s transfer value has little relationship to its share in the scheme’s assets. So it’s harder to tell if the person transferring in is getting a bargain at the expense of other members.

    Under some regulatory regimes, DB schemes can also give better apparent returns. My understanding is that this is largely because they are able to keep a lot of risk off the books, in a way that would get an insurance company ritually sacrificed by the regulator. So they can generate high returns, but there’s a gamble in there somewhere. Who precisely gets it in the shorts if things fall through will depend on jurisdiction; in the UK it’s usually the taxpayer one way or another.

    [The state] gets to renegotiate the terms of participation with every negotiation cycle.

    And that is what the state of Wisconsin is trying to do here (if I’ve understood correctly). And it’s getting eaten alive by the pundits, thus demonstrating my point #2.

    • Nobody in a union vests […] in a day.

      My actual point was in the last line: “Nobody really noticed until recently.” The point I was trying to make is that the media and general public are very bad at understanding what it means for a pension benefit to be unusually good or bad. The PM was just the most obvious illustration that sprang to mind.

    • Fraud always sucks. Your point, aside from the fact that we should make sure our politicians read the reports they’re given?

      Again, I was using this as an extreme illustration of a more general principle: pension scheme negotiations pit motivated union officials against unmotivated public officials. The unions tend to come out ahead, especially since they can often bring political pressure to bear too.

      For example, in the UK, the large public-sector union Unite was actively campaigning for one political party during the last election, presumably because they were deemed the easiest to get concessions from. No-one round here campaigns for lower pensions.

      Obviously I’m talking only about public sector schemes here – corporations have less incentive to be pushovers. Which, I would contend, is why most corporations these days run DC schemes.

    • By your reasoning, Social Security is nothing but a Ponzi scheme since the funds aren’t held in marked accounts.

      I wouldn’t be the first person to draw that parallel. Note that Ponzi schemes (at least as I’m using the term) are not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you understand that the chain will probably end at some point, and the last person to join will probably be a bit unhappy…

      If Social Security were to close down, chances are that it would get bought out at taxpayer expense. The actuarial approach would be to put that liability on the books now, which I expect would cancel out the apparent benefits of running SS.

    Those people you’re considering screwing over every time the economy wobbles are the people who keep it moving.

    Since I haven’t actually expressed an opinion on Wisconsin in particular, I’m going to assume you’re referring to my preference for DC schemes. The thing is, every time the economy wobbles, it creates risk. Someone has to take on that risk; I simply prefer that the transaction be made as explicit as possible. If people are happy to keep that risk in their pension, DC allows them to buy equity-linked funds. If people prefer to de-risk their pension, they can invest more in fixed-interest securities and gilts.

    By contrast, in DB, people invest in the asset mix the trustees decide on, which in the case of an unfunded scheme is implicitly 100% government debt. Since there is no attempt to place a market rate on this debt at point of purchase, it will never be clear if they’re over- or under-paying for it.

    If they’re over-paying then this is clearly not fair on them; if they’re under-paying then it is clearly not fair on all the other taxpayers. Either way, people don’t have any choice what to do with their own money.

  33. #33 Corkscrew
    March 1, 2011

    which I expect would cancel out the apparent benefits of running SS.

    Sorry, that should read “running SS unfunded”. I’m going to shamelessly blame any typos like this on the mild fever I’m currently fighting off, which is doing Bad Things to various parts of my cortex.

    Feel free to make the obvious joke about the rest of my comment :)

  34. #34 Stephanie Z
    March 1, 2011

    Corkscrew, I suspect, from your use of the word “scheme” where I use “plan” that you’re not from the U.S. That would explain why a lot of what you’re saying isn’t applicable in this situation. I don’t know exactly what the differences are, so you’re in for a lot of background.

    Benefits under DB plans have almost exactly zero portability in the U.S. The most common type of benefit formula under traditional plans is service at that employer times average pay at the end of of that service times some multiplier. These two facts combine to disadvantage workers who change employers by locking in lower average pay amounts for various chunks of service. Someone who sticks around long enough to be vested in their benefit doesn’t lose that service, but the service doesn’t grow in value as pay continues to rise (for inflation if nothing else) at the next employer.

    That’s what makes DC plans appealing to workers who move around. Those funds continue to (presumably) grow in value over time.

    What makes DB plans a better bang for the buck is not any ability to do funky accounting or hide risk. The Pension Protection Act went a fair way toward adding clarity on the question of risk, and the aftermath of Enron did a fair amount to reestablish the somewhat adversarial relationship between companies and the auditors who oversee the trusts in which private pensions in the U.S. are held. The biggest problem with risk right now in U.S. pensions is that companies are working to insure themselves against risk. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but when the big risks are return-related and the unregulated investment companies driving much of that risk are also insurance companies, companies aren’t likely to find much solace in the face of another catastrophic financial failure.

    No, there are two things that make a pension fund able to get better returns than 401(k) investors can get. The first is expertise. Most 401(k) investors don’t have the training to make investment decisions (no, a quarterly newsletter does not count). Those who make the decisions on pension funds do. They’re less likely to move money the wrong direction after markets have made big shifts. They’re more likely to match risk and return to the actual payouts of the plan. Even “lifestyle” or “target date” funds in 401(k) offerings don’t match the amounts of risk suggested for long-term investment. They can’t because the average investor doesn’t have the education to understand that much risk.

    The biggest reason, however, that companies get better returns out of their retirement investments is simply that investing costs money. Beyond that, it costs more money the less money you have to invest. Pension plans see vastly lower administration costs than individual investors do, both for that reason and because until recently companies had no particular stake in bargaining for good rates for their 401(k) plans. Those were paid by the individual investors. The situation was bad enough a few years ago that companies were sued for being fiscally irresponsible with their employees money.

    As for the rest, WI’s pension plan is nice, but it’s not hugely rich. I’ve seen the details. In the U.S., we do have plenty of people paying attention to negotiations with public unions. They’ve been a favorite whipping-boy of our conservatives for at least the last four decades. A Ponzi scheme is, by definition, fraudulent. Social Security runs exactly as advertised.

  35. #35 Corkscrew
    March 3, 2011

    Corkscrew, I suspect, from your use of the word “scheme” where I use “plan” that you’re not from the U.S.

    Correct, I’m from the UK. Plus, as mentioned, I’m only semi-trained in actuarial. Mostly on the mathematical bits, plus some pensions admin experience. Just out of curiosity, what’s your background?

    In the UK I think it’s usually possible to transfer benefits between schemes. (Although, as you say, since DB schemes don’t accrue linearly, switching jobs is not good for your benefits.)

    Pension plans see vastly lower administration costs than individual investors do

    I thought this was what unitised passive funds were for? Haven’t really got much experience with the investment side of actuarial work, though, so happy to take your word for it.

    Point taken regards the 401(k)s. I don’t think the situation in the UK is comparable – we’re at a different point in the scandal cycle. The last big one for us was Maxwell in ’95, which gave a lot of people the feeling that it’s best to keep your employer’s hands off your pension’s investment strategy.

    As for the rest, WI’s pension plan is nice, but it’s not hugely rich. I’ve seen the details.

    Ultimately this is the important point. If the returns from the Wisconsin scheme (sorry, “plan”) are comparable to what you’d get from a well-run DC plan with similar cashflows and risk profile, then the state should not be out of pocket on this.

    Lacking any specific knowledge of the plan, I am happy to take your word on this. :)

    A Ponzi scheme is, by definition, fraudulent. Social Security runs exactly as advertised.

    True. But both have the potential to crash messily. And both are pro-cyclical – they get harder and more dangerous to support as the economic situation gets worse. That’s why Madoff’s scheme ran fine for a decade or two but collapsed when the recession hit

    In the case of Social Security, the risk of it crashing is less, because it has the entire US govt backing it. But this guarantee is not as valuable as you might think, because any economic situation where Social Security was crashing (e.g. a Japan-style greying population) would be very bad for the government’s general ability to meet its debts.

  36. #36 JT
    May 26, 2011

    Who is justin bieber?

Current ye@r *