Issue #12

Hot coronavirus mess, veepstakes, prosecutorial discretion, Chance the Rapper

This is The Dossier.

Each Sunday we deliver the latest developments in world affairs, political economy, and culture straight to your inbox, served with a generous side of soul.

We spend the week scouring the internets for essential information and meaningful content to keep you informed, inspired and mildly entertained.

In a marketing coup as savvy as it was cynical, Chase Bank hosted a virtual commencement for the HBCU class of 2020, entitled #ShowMeYourWalk. The bank is under fire for favoring large companies over small businesses in its processing of the Paycheck Protection Program. Joining CEO Jamie Dimon in this racialized bid to restore the bank’s brand equity were comedian Kevin Hart and President Barack Obama, who leveled sharp criticism of the current administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

If America doesn’t get its act together, we can look forward to Walmart, McDonald’s or a payday loan company hosting #ShowMeYourWalkAgain for the HBCU class of 2021.


📰 Week in brief

  • Nearly 3 million more people filed unemployment claims in the week ending May 9. 36.5 million workers have filed for unemployment in the last two months.

  • US retail sales dropped a record 16.4% in April. Although online retail saw sales growth of 8.4%, clothing (-78.8%), furniture (-58.7%), restaurants (-29.5%) and gas stations (-28.8%) saw dramatic declines.

  • US industrial production plunged 11.2% in April, the steepest monthly decline in more than a century. 

  • Facing Republican shiftlessness, Congressional Democrats passed a $3 trillion relief bill. Although the bill will most certainly not become law, it does lay out Democrat’s priorities and terms of debate for any future rounds of federal relief.

  • Judge Emmet Sullivan appointed a retired federal judge and mob prosecutor to argue against the Justice Department’s request to drop its case against Michael Flynn. The former national security advisor to Donald Trump had previously pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in its probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

  • The family of Breonna Taylor is suing the Louisville Metro Police Department for the wrongful shooting death of the 26-year old first responder. 


🎧 WEAKEND

Everything seems to happen over Zoom now. Literally everything, from class reunions to Senate hearings. 

Rhyon Brown’s latest music video—taking place entirely on FaceTime and Instagram Live—is a creative reflection of our telepresence times.

But even in this time of great uncertainty, some things never change...


🦠 COVID-19

  • As Louisiana reopens, a newly published study links higher coronavirus death rates for the predominantly black communities in the industrial region known as “cancer alley” which has historically suffered from extreme levels of air pollution. Gizmodo reports that while “black people make up only 33 percent of Louisiana’s population, they account for 56 percent of the state’s COVID-19 deaths.”

  • In the latest example of partisan shenanigans in the Badger State, the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned Democratic Governor Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order, which was scheduled to expire on May 26. A Wisconsin writer describes the situation as “a hot coronavirus mess.” Black people make up 6% of Wisconsin’s population, but 29% of COVID-19 deaths.

  • Sociologist Adia Harvey Wingfield argues that black healthcare professionals working in the hardest hit communities face higher risks and dangers in the fight against the coronavirus. 


🗳 Which woman will win? 

As reported in prior weeks, all eyes are on Joe Biden as he searches for someone to be second in command on the Democratic ticket. There has been continued buzz about the former Vice President picking a woman, and some have been urging him to choose a woman of color. There is no shortage of ranked lists of top contenders for the 2020 Veepstakes.  No one knows exactly who Joe will pick; all of the candidates being considered are poised and ready to lead.

Here are the top five women most likely to hit the running mate jackpot and why they might be helpful to Biden. 

Stacey Abrams: The Georgian Go-Getter 

Stacey Abrams, a lawyer born in Wisconsin and raised in Mississippi, holds a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School. She was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 2007 and served as minority leader from 2011 to 2017. Abrams was the Democratic  nominee in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election and received endorsements from Bernie Sanders and former President Barack Obama. In February 2019, she became the first African-American woman to deliver a rebuttal to the State of the Union address and is the only private citizen to ever do so. Abrams did not run for the U.S. Senate in 2020 and it could have been because she wanted to have time to devote to Fair Fight 2020, an organization she founded to assist Democrats in building voter protection teams.  Under the pen name Selena Montgomery, Abrams is the award-winning author of several romantic suspense novels. 

Pros: Abrams a sharp and bright rising star who has national name exposure due to her gubernatorial candidacy in a highly contested race. She could possibly deliver the state of Georgia, which is a potential 2020 battleground state.

Cons:  Literally, everyone knows she wants to be Biden’s pick, because she has been openly campaigning for months. While some have praised her for being upfront about her vice presidential ambitions, her short resume as an elected official gives some people pause.  

Kamala Harris: The Established Trailblazer

Senator Kamala Harris, the daughter of an Indian research scientist and Jamaican economics professor, was raised in Berkeley, California. As a kindergartener she participated in the Berkeley County school desegregation-busing program (which was designed to provide public transportation to black students integrating all-white schools in the name of racial balance). Harris became the first woman and the first African-American to lead the District Attorney's Office of San Francisco; she also made history in 2010 as the first female Jamaican-American and Indian-AmericanAttorney General in California. As Attorney General, she piloted the Back on Track initiative, a reentry program designed to give assistance to nonviolent, first-time offenders. Harris got elected as the second African-American to serve in the United States Senate in 2016. As a former contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, she gained a reputation for her quickwittedness in debates and her no-nonsense demeanor in Trump’s impeachment hearings.  

Pros: She’s a woman of color with an extensive and groundbreaking public service resume.  She has name recognition, and seems to be a fan favorite. She also brings with her an army of black women ready to get souls to the polls with her membership in the National Pan-Hellenic Council’s oldest sorority. 

Cons: She might not be viewed as a true progressive, and Biden doesn’t have to worry about carrying Cali. Kamala also essentially called Biden a racist in a debate last summer, because he voted against busing measures ordered by the U.S. Department of Education, which Harris said was a very personal matter for her. 

Amy Klobuchar: The Minnesota Moderate

Amy Jean Klobuchar got a taste of politics after she advocated for a bill that would allow women at least 48 hours in the hospital after giving birth. The Minnesota state legislature passed that bill and in 1993 President Bill Clinton signed a version of that same bill into federal law. After working as a corporate attorney, Klobuchar ran for public office as the Hennepin County attorney in Minnesota. She served in that role for two terms.  In 2006, Klobuchar became the first woman to be elected to the United States Senate from Minnesota and has held that role since. She suspended her 2020 presidential campaign shortly before Super Tuesday and immediately endorsed Joe Biden.

Pros:  Klobuchar is at the top of Biden’s running mate list because of her Midwestern roots and moderate politics. With her statewide wins in Minnesota, some believe that she has the ability to recapture the swing voters in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania as well. Klobuchar is the most active legislator in the U.S. Senate. She is currently the lead sponsor of a bill to expand absentee and mail-in voting nationally. Her voting bill is endorsed by Jesse Jackson and Rainbow Push.

Cons:  Klobuchar and Biden are both moderates with identical politics, which may turn away younger, more progressive voters.  Klobuchar failed to capture Black and Latino voters during the primary. As such, she may not be the candidate most well-suited to increase turnout in major Midwestern cities like Milwaukee, Detroit and Philadelphia. Additionally, Amy Klobuchar’s  prosecutorial career is tarnished due to her failure to prosecute police-involved shootings, as well as her prosecution of Myon Burrell despite the absence of key evidence. 

Elizabeth Warren: The Smartest Person in the Room  

Before being the first woman from Massachusetts elected to the Senate in 2012, Elizabeth Warren was a Harvard law professor and the nation’s leading scholar in bankruptcy law. She rose to national prominence after being appointed by Congress to lead oversight of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. She later was the lead architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). For a time, Warren led the 2020 presidential field. She is currently a premier contender for the vice presidential nomination.

Pros: Senator Warren has the ability to consolidate the progressive base and unite the party. Senator Warren has no shortage of plans to address the coronavirus pandemic and jumpstart the economy.

Cons:  While Warren brings ideological balance to the ticket, if your theory is that Joe needs a person who is physically from the Midwest, then a Senator from Massachusetts doesn’t fit the bill. 

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: The Midwestern Pragmatist 

Gretchen Whitmer, a lawyer born and raised in the Great Lakes state, served as a state lawmaker from 2001 to 2015. In 2011, she became the first woman to lead a party caucus in the Senate. She won all 83 counties in the state in the Democratic gubernatorial primary prior to  becoming the second second female governor in Michigan’s history. In February 2020, she gave the Democratic response to Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address. Whitmer describes herself as a progressive Democrat who can work across the aisle; her orders in March of this year regarding precautions to be taken against the spread of the coronavirus were met with broad public approval from approximately 70 percent of Michigan residents (Democrats and Republicans alike).  

Pros: She has years of local and state public service due to expertly navigating Michigan’s political landscape. She has been popular with Michiganders in the past, and could possibly deliver a swing state that the Democrats lost in 2016. 

Cons:  Her approval rating has plummeted recently because a number of Michigan residents have openly protested increased restrictions in the state-wide shelter-in-place order. She  is not the first politician to suffer a sudden decline in approval ratings--especially when dealing with a crisis--but the last thing Biden needs right now is a running mate unpopular at home. 


🏛 Problematic prosecutors

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and federal officials to investigate what led to the initial failure of two prosecutors to seek charges against Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery.

How did we get here?

4 (four)… That’s the number of prosecutors who have led the investigation at some point in this matter:

  • The first prosecutor, Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson recused herself from any potential prosecution, citing a conflict of interest due to Gregory McMichael having previously done work for her office.

  • The second prosecutor, Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill, was appointed by Attorney General Carr, recused himself because his son worked for District Attorney Jackie Johnson and that he believes there was no probable cause to arrest the McMichaels.

  • The third prosecutor, Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tom Durden, appointed by Attorney General Carr, issued a statement that the case should be presented to a grand jury and requested the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to take over the case. He stepped aside citing the need for a district attorney’s office with more staff and resources are needed to properly handle the case.

  • The fourth prosecutor, Cobb Judicial Circuit District Attorney Joyette Holmes, also appointed by Attorney General Carr, currently has the case.

Where do prosecutors derive this authority?

Prosecutorial discretion has been a long established practice in the criminal justice system. In an oft-cited 1982 case, the Georgia Supreme Court opined in State v. Hanson, “From the beginning of our criminal justice system prosecutors have exercised the power of prosecutorial discretion in deciding which defendants to prosecute.”

Was there misconduct or an abuse of power?

It would be a new legal development should any prosecutors face punishment for exercising prosecutorial discretion in not bringing charges against the McMichaels. Prosecutorial misconduct generally deals with improper acts of commission that violates a defendant’s rights in preparation for a trial or during trial. 

Who checks the powers of prosecutors?

The courts, the state bar, and ultimately the voters. In 2018, voters ousted St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch, who declined to bring charges in the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. In 2016, Cook County voters ousted State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who delayed bringing charges against Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke in the 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald.


🥡 Consolidation of power

Uber has apparently offered to acquire GrubHub. Bloomberg reports the combined company would control an estimated 55% of the US food delivery market share. The current industry leader is DoorDash, with 35% market share.

Analysts have long predicted increased consolidation in the food delivery space, which is notoriously unprofitable. 

But there are other problems with the food delivery business. What makes these companies attractive to investors is their reliance on gig workers who earn a sub-minimum wage. Although food delivery companies have seen a recent jump in demand for their services, cities across the country are placing caps on the fees these companies can charge restaurants.

Most restaurants had razor-thin profit margins to begin with. As an increasing share of orders come in via delivery apps, the commissions and fees can erase what little margins these restaurants have left. GrubHub, for its part, has exhibited a fair amount of ethically dubious business practices during the pandemic, harming the very restaurants the company claimed to be supporting.

Recessions are breeding grounds for industry consolidations. However, this proposed acquisition was already in the works before the pandemic hit.

But that didn’t stop a public outcry from restaurant owners and politicians alike.

The food delivery business is broken, because the restaurant industry is broken, because the economy is broken.

The current crisis is just exposing what’s been wrong all along.


💵 Chance pays it forward

In the latest installment of Verizon’s #PayItForwardLIVE campaign to support small businesses, Chance the Rapper took the opportunity to heavily rep the small businesses on the South and West sides of Chicago that played a role in his life. This could have easily been a mere branding exercise for Verizon, filled with vague platitudes. Instead, Chance offered up a paean to black-owned businesses in Chicago.

It’s a dope set, so check it out:


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