‘Orange’ Showrunner Jenji Kohan on Hollywood’s Pay Inequality, ‘F— You’ Money and Her ‘Friends’ Regrets

‘Orange’ Showrunner Jenji Kohan on Hollywood’s Pay Inequality, ‘F— You’ Money and Her ‘Friends’ Regrets

“It began at the family dinner table, where Kohan, the youngest of three, fought for attention among comedy giants — her father, Buz, a king of variety shows; her brother David, a creator of Will & Grace. As she entered her teens, she was the quirky misfit in a privileged Beverly Hills community. And later, when she joined the family business and wrote more than a dozen pilot scripts that never aired, she fought for recognition in a network system where she lacked both the commercial sense and the capacity — or desire — to be politic.

But as she sits on this day in her spacious office in the heart of Hollywood, news of Orange is the New Black’s 12 Emmy nominations — the biggest haul of any comedy contender — still fresh, it’s not hard to see that she finally has attained the respect and acclamation she has spent her lifetime chasing. And in the evolving landscape of premium television, where a Netflix dramedy can live as far out on the edge as her imagination does, Kohan has become the establishment.”

Anytime I can share a profile of a strong, fabulous, trailblazing, not to mention rainbow-haired woman, I will. Also, I find insider Hollywood stories irresistible.

Advertisements

The Cost of Getting a Green Card

The Cost of Getting a Green Card

“The expenses associated with getting a green card come in three general categories: official fees paid to the government, professional fees (lawyers, passport photos, etc.), and black market costs (fake documents, fake marriages, scams of all sorts). I talked to some immigration lawyers and some immigrants I know to get a sense of what these costs can look like.

First, the official costs. A green card application costs a total of $1,490. (If I were in charge, it would be $1,492, because government bureaucracy needs a little whimsical irony.) That is definitely not nothing, but Danielle Briand and Yazmin Rodriguez, immigration lawyers in Bridgeport, Connecticut, who were good enough to give me some orientation in this realm, told me that the immigration service is pretty good about giving people waivers for financial hardship. Of course, there are many many permutations and combinations of fees you might have to pay (here is a daunting pdf of all of them). With the cost of possible appeals, ancillary forms and fees that different circumstances might require, and medical examination and mailing costs, it would be easy to drop $2,000 just on government fees.”

The fees are bad enough, but having to fill out overwhelming stacks of unreadable government forms that are barely in English, which is probably not the applicant’s native language anyway, must be even more overwhelming and discouraging.

“Despite being accompanied by extensive instruction booklets, the forms still have some irreducibly ambiguous questions, perhaps reflecting several different generations of bureaucratic obfuscation. And the green card government hotline notwithstanding, I believe there is very little useful, free, and credible help available to people in trouble-shooting ambiguous questions. When the stakes are so high, and when even a single error can mess up a person’s application or stall it by months or even years, this seems worrisome.”

Not to mention the fact that immigration law changes constantly, and that the process is more subjective than scientific. Something to think about next time the subject of illegal immigration comes up.

Building a Better College Ranking System. Wait, Babson Beats Harvard?

Building a Better College Ranking System. Wait, Babson Beats Harvard?

“On Monday, Money magazine took its shot, releasing a new best colleges list focused on, unsurprisingly, money. While some elements of the rankings are familiar, the list is distinguished by the depth of its attention to a pair of questions on the minds of many students and parents. First, how much money will I actually have to pay — and, probably, borrow — to earn a diploma? Second, how much money will my diploma be worth in the job market when the time comes to pay my loans back?

The mark of a good new college rankings system — or, at least, an interesting one — is a deft combination of familiarity and surprise. Publish a list of nothing but unknown colleges and you lose credibility. Simply replicate the U.S. News hierarchy and you haven’t done anything worthy of attention. By this measure, the Money rankings are successful.

M.I.T., Stanford and the California Institute of Technology are all in the top 10. But so are Brigham Young, Harvey Mudd College and Babson College. Babson is a business-focused institution in Massachusetts that most people have probably never heard of. According to Money, it’s the No. 1 college in America.”

Anything to shake up the broken college rankings system is a good thing. In my heart of hearts, it hurts me that a classic liberal arts education is held in such a low regard in our society. Realistically, I want less people in debt, and a practical degree will help students pay off their horribly inflated loans.

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats

“…Now I own a very large yacht.

But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?

I see pitchforks.

And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.”

This is your must-read article for the week. I don’t care if you don’t read anything else today; read this. Read this, and let it sink in.

Because the pitchforks are coming.

(Seriously. READ IT.)

Ikea To Raise Minimum Wage For U.S. Workers With Tie To Living Wage Calculator

Ikea To Raise Minimum Wage For U.S. Workers With Tie To Living Wage Calculator

The Swedish furniture giant Ikea is raising the minimum wage in all of its U.S. stores, and it’s doing so in a way that may raise the bar for American retailers. The famous seller of ready-to-assemble home goods will base the wage floor for each of its stores on the MIT Living Wage Calculator, which estimates what salary a worker would need in order to get by in a particular geographic area.

According to Ikea, the move will boost the average store minimum wage to $10.76, a 17 percent increase, and bring raises to approximately half of the company’s 13,650 U.S. employees. The new rates will go into effect on Jan. 1, according to Rob Olson, chief financial officer and acting president of Ikea U.S.

Brilliant move by IKEA, especially since they’ve been criticized in the past for treating their American workers differently than their European workers. Considering the company isn’t planning on passing the cost along to its consumers, this whole decision really flies in the face of the American corporate status quo. It’s going to be harder for businesses to keep saying they can’t afford to pay their workers a living wage or even their health insurance.

Kudos.

As Court Fees Rise, The Poor Are Paying The Price

As Court Fees Rise, The Poor Are Paying The Price

In Augusta, Ga., a judge sentenced Tom Barrett to 12 months after he stole a can of beer worth less than $2. In Ionia, Mich., 19-year-old Kyle Dewitt caught a fish out of season; then a judge sentenced him to three days in jail. In Grand Rapids, Mich., Stephen Papa, a homeless Iraq War veteran, spent 22 days in jail, not for what he calls his “embarrassing behavior” after he got drunk with friends and climbed into an abandoned building, but because he had only $25 the day he went to court.

The common thread in these cases, and scores more like them, is the jail time wasn’t punishment for the crime, but for the failure to pay the increasing fines and fees associated with the criminal justice system.

A yearlong NPR investigation found that the costs of the criminal justice system in the United States are paid increasingly by the defendants and offenders. It’s a practice that causes the poor to face harsher treatment than others who commit identical crimes and can afford to pay. Some judges and politicians fear the trend has gone too far.

This is humiliating and a waste of tax-payer dollars. The fact that we still send people to prison over petty court fees is absolutely ridiculous. There needs to be a better way.

Everything You Don’t Know About Tipping

Everything You Don’t Know About Tipping

You should read this and learn things. I agree with 90% of the tipping suggestions, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried harder to leave better tips.

Advice I found to be most helpful? Time matters, and so does effort. If someone went to a lot of trouble to help you, you should award them for it. This should be obvious, but it doesn’t always occur to me.