The Crucifixion of Oliver Schmidt

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Volkswagen AG executive Oliver Schmidt is due to be sentenced this week for “cheating” Uncle. He faces seven years in federal prison and up to $400,000 in fines. His professional life is, of course, kaput. He will never work again.

Starbucks, perhaps.

And his personal life is probably ruined, too. Not many wives stand by their convicted felon.

Schmidt is only 48 years old – and his life is over. All because he – along with other VW executives and engineers – “cheated” on federal emissions tests, which amounts to the same thing as making a right turn on red when there’s clearly no traffic around. A violation of statute; no actual harm caused to anyone.

But the affront to the authority of the state, that is another matter. It’s why cops lurk in wait at intersections in the middle of the night, waiting to waylay a right-on-redder. The cop can see it’s safe to make the turn. He knows no one is threatened with any harm as a result of the perfectly safe right turn, the red light notwithstanding.

But the law must be obeyed – which is another way of saying the state’s authority must never be questioned.

Same thing here.

Schmidt harmed no one. VW’s diesels harmed no on. The only “evidence” adduced to convict Schmidt and nail him – and VW – to the cross is the hearsay speculation of EPA bureaucrats, who claim that microcosmic, fractional differences in the output of oxides of nitrogen (NOx), a byproduct of combustion, are “harmful.”

In the same way that making a right on red with no one around is.

The EPA – and federal courts – were not required to prove that anyone (literally, any one – even a single actual human being) was harmed by the “cheating.” Just as it is not necessary to establish that a right-on-red harmed anyone.

The only thing that matters is that the government be obeyed – regardless of the fatuity of the “offense.”

But after a few months in Room 101, poor Schmidt has come around.

Like Winston Smith after his conversion, Schmidt loves Uncle now. He has written the judge who will preside over his sentencing that he feels “misused” by his former employer.

“I must say that I feel misused by my own company in the diesel scandal or ‘Dieselgate,'” Schmidt wrote to U.S. judge Sean Cox, according to a letter filed in federal court and which was published by Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

“In hindsight, I should never have agreed to meet with Dr. Ayala on that day,” he wrote – describing a meeting with Alberto Ayala, a California Air Resources Board bureaucrat. California’s emissions rigmarole is even more fatuous than federal fatuity.

“Or better yet, I should have gone to that meeting and ignored the instructions given to me and told Dr Ayala that there is a defeat device in the VW diesel engine vehicles and that VW had been cheating for almost a decade. I did not do that and that is why I find myself here today.”

VW was under immense pressure to get its cars “certified” for sale in what is still – for the moment – the country’s largest market for new cars. So a little shuck and jive occurred. The kind of thing that used to be applauded as Yankee Ingenuity but which today is regarded as almost a kind of mental aberration, like not loving Big Brother or really seeing those fingers . . .

” . . . O’Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended. ‘How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?’ ‘And if the party says that it is not four but five — then how many?’ The word ended in a gasp of pain.”

One wonders whether – a couple of years hence – we will find a watery-eyed Schmidt drowning himself in Victory Gin at the Chestnut Tree Cafe . . . .. . .

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