Among the reasons I look forward to Fridays is Chris George’s weekly column shows up in my morning email. George, a veteran advisor to Canadian CEOs and corporations, writes for a publication called The Niagara Independent, a pro-business newspaper that punches way above its weight. I look to George to keep me abreast on the decline of my home and native land.
George’s column this morning jolted me more than my morning cup of Joe. Here’s the first three paragraphs:
Last Friday, the Globe and Mail published a full front page story by veteran parliamentary reporters Robert Fife and Steven Chase about a clandestine operation run by the CCP to unduly interfere in the outcome of the country’s national election. The news story begins: “China employed a sophisticated strategy to disrupt Canada’s democracy in the 2021 federal election campaign as Chinese diplomats and their proxies backed the re-election of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals – but only to another minority government – and worked to defeat Conservative politicians considered to be unfriendly to Beijing.
For days the Globe and Mail ran a series of articles outlining a number of disturbing facts obtained from top-secret Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) documents leaked to the paper. The CCP’s foreign interference during the 2021 election included undeclared cash contributions to candidates, misinformation about Conservative foreign policy, having businesses hire international students to volunteer full-time for Liberal candidates, and providing cash refunds to donors for the portion of their donation not covered by the federal tax credit.
CSIS was tracking a “sophisticated political strategy” employed by the CCP that would ensure the re-election of a Liberal government and the defeat of Conservative politicians who were critical of Beijing, its human rights abuses and its threats to global safety and security.
It’s likely that America’s entrenched media will accuse George (and me) of being “conspiracy theorists” and “misinformation mongers,” but the Globe and Mail, although a far cry from its former glory, is still regarded as being one of Canada’s better publications. George’s entire column can be found here.
The golden rule in politics is to follow the money, and it took me just minutes to find the trail.
From a November 28, 2022, article in Canada’s Financial Post.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s long-awaited Asia strategy will allow Canadian companies to continue to engage with China, alleviating fears in some corners of the business community that the West’s decision to go on the offensive against Beijing could force multi-national companies to abandon an economy that is on track to supplant the United States as the world’s biggest market.
“I will continue to support businesses that are operating in China, but we also want to diversify our supply chains,” Trade Minister Mary Ng said after she and three other cabinet ministers unveiled Canada’s first-ever Indo-Pacific Strategy at the Port of Vancouver on Nov. 27.
Palo Alto is America’s EV Motor City
Elon Musk once again makes fools of America’s media.
The media last fall declared the Tesla brand was finito thanks to Musk’s brutal Twitter firings and other antics but the company’s stock has rebounded with a vengeance. The media also proclaimed Silicon Valley had lost its luster in wake of tech companies downsizing and dire predictions that venture capital investments would come to a near halt.
Musk this week declared Palo Alto, the capital of Silicon Valley, Tesla’s official engineering headquarters. Tesla is taking over the lease for the office space previously occupied by Hewlett-Packard, a company once synonymous with tech innovation until a CEO named Carly Fiorina destroyed the place. Tesla’s expansion will focus on hiring engineers proficient in research development and artificial intelligence.
“This was HP’s original headquarters, and so I think it’s a poetic transition from the founders of Silicon Valley to Tesla and we’re very excited to make this our global engineering headquarters,” Musk told CNBC. “And we’re a California-Texas company.”
A LinkedIn spoilsport argued on my page that Tesla’s headquarters remains in Austin but if I was Palo Alto mayor Lydia Kou, I’d consider it a coup that the engineering brains responsible for America’s only credible EV manufacturer worked out of my town. Unlike GM, Musk requires all his employees to show up at the office.
Tesla has a manufacturing plant in Freemont, about 16 miles north of Palo Alto.
Ford increasingly is moving its engineering and design teams to Mexico, and head office functions to India, but some of the company’s brightest U.S. researchers and engineering minds are located in Palo Alto where Ford’s website says the company employs nearly 300 researchers, engineers, designers, and scientists, “and growing.”
Ford has a partnership with Google worth hundreds of millions of dollars to develop the automaker’s growing in-vehicle connectivity, as well as manage the company’s cloud computing and other technology services. The news release announcing the partnership suggested Google’s automotive business is run out of Sunnyvale, which is also in Silicon Valley and the birthplace of the video game industry.
Google’s Waymo autonomous driving business is located in Mountain View, another Silicon Valley locale, and GM’s Cruise autonomous taxi business is headquartered in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, most of the design studios of the world’s leading automakers are in Southern California, where GM invested $71 million to open a design center comprising three-buildings, nearly 150,000-square-ft. on an eight-acre property. Rivian, once based in Michigan, is also headquartered in Southern California.
There are even plans to build a lithium battery plant in Southern California in the “stinky” Salton Sea area near Palm Springs, a place where the smell of hydrogen sulfide is so strong the region is sometimes put on “odor alert.” Although the plant will receive local subsidies and possibly federal subsidies, I can find no record of California providing any subsidies.
The battery plant Ford recently announced in Michigan will be built on farmland and is receiving $1 billion in subsidies, possibly more.
Ford’s Farley Looming Fire Sale
Detroit Free Press auto writer Phoebe Wall Howard reported today that production of Ford’s F-150 Lightning is going into its fourth week of shutdown. The all-electric pickup truck, which has a long customer waiting list, stopped factory production in Dearborn while engineers and the battery supplier SK On have worked to figure out a battery issue that caused a fire in a Dearborn holding lot on Feb. 4.
Here’s what Ford PR woman Jennifer Flake told Howard:
The teams worked quickly to identify the root cause of the issue. We agree with SK’s recommended changes in their equipment and processes for SK’s cell production lines. SK has started building battery cells again in Commerce, Georgia. It will take SK time to ensure they are BACK TO BUILDING (emphasis mine) high-quality cells and to deliver them to the Lightning production line. Ford’s Rouge Electric Vehicle Center will suspend production through the end of next week, and we’ll continue to provide updates.
I’d welcome knowing when and why SK made the decision to build cells that weren’t of high quality.
Howard also had another big scoop today reporting that Annie Liu, a former head of supply chain, battery and energy at Tesla who joined Ford Motor Co. last year, has left the company after less than a year on the job. Spokesman T.R. Reid told Howard that Liu’s decision was “influenced by the needs of her family.”
The Closing of a Detroit’s Oldest Starbucks
Starbucks closing stores these days is no longer news and given my low regard for the company, I normally couldn’t care less. But this story about the closing of Detroit’s oldest Starbucks broke my heart.
Reporter JC Reindl impressively found former employees who worked at the store before it was shuddered. This quote from a former barista summed up the store’s working conditions.
We couldn’t keep anyone (in the store) because it is so wild. You are not just serving coffee anymore. You are saving people from overdoses, you’re helping people not get assaulted, you’re making sure the store doesn’t get robbed — like it’s a completely different job.
No one should have to work under such dire conditions, but that’s still life in Detroit in a good part of the city. What angers me are the billions in grants and subsidies Detroit and Michigan give to billionaires such as Dan Gilbert and the Illitch family for their real estate projects, as well as GM and Ford, who are lousy corporate citizens. The closed Starbucks is within walking distance to GM’s headquarters.
There are more deserving companies in Detroit worthy of support, such as Detroit Bikes, which is trying to reshore bicycle production from Asia back to America and expand the range of bicycles produced in the U.S. It’s an exciting and inspiring story, aptly told by Grand Rapids-based manufacturing expert Jim Vinoski here.
A shoutout to JC Reindl for making a store closing such a powerful read.
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