Thought for the Day – Corporate trust?

Builders:

In the 1960’s any American who expressed any distrust of the government, even a part of it like J. Edgar Hoover, was instantly labeled a subversive or communist, and publicly marginalized. Today, the pendulum has come full swing, and a significant and vocal number of people consider anyone with any trust in any act of civil government to be a lackey and dupe. It is ironic that that these extremists often  ignore the fact they went to public schools, drive on federal highways, fly on FAA regulated planes, eat food made to FDA standards, work 40 hour weeks, enjoy national parks and appreciate things like the internet, the P-51, the Jeep and the .30-06, (which all have their origins in the US civil government). The government isn’t perfect nor efficient, but these people still call 9-1-1 when they have a heart attack because they want to live to complain another day.

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Moving away from civil affairs, I will say that I am astounded how much trust people have in the giant corporations that have tentacles into most facets of our lives.  While I have reluctantly grown used to being treated to unsolicited dissertations on the absolute evils of civil government by people who don’t know how many articles there are in the constitution, very few people ever express to me the same lack of trust of international corporations, as if being in the private sector and devoted solely to making profits insured fully ethical behavior. An odd perspective where lobbing, bribing and purchasing politicians is perfectly acceptable, but actually being a politician of any kind or quality is evil.

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This week offers a great example of the public trust of international corporations, particularly of ‘brands’ they have been taught to ‘love’ through very effective marketing. So Volkswagen finally admits to a giant scheme to defraud US laws, extending to 11 million vehicles.  While VW fan’s were stunned to learn they had been lied to by the ‘nice people’ who make colorful Beetles, I was not. I don’t have blind faith in government, but I do have an absolute faith that management of international corporations will take every opportunity to make profits, even if this means subverting the laws that they couldn’t block from being written in the first place.

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To give some perspective, there are auto mechanics who have done actual jail time for disabling the emissions control equipment on as few as 10 cars. If the CEO of VW were to spend 5 minutes behind bars for each of the 11 million cars, he would not live long enough to see daylight again. ( Assuming we learned how to send white collar criminals to jail).

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To VW fans with surprised looks on their faces, or investors who saw their stock value tank 30%  in 48 hours, I say get real, wake up, and have another coffee. We are talking about a company that was founded at the request of Adolph Hitler and used slave labor from concentration camps in WWII. To expect the ethics of Jesus from a corporation with such origins is slightly naïve to say the least.  A VW fan and perpetual owner I know, who has treated me to countless lectures on the alleged superiority of ‘German engineering’, told be he could hardly believe his TDI was going to have a recall because it produced up to 40 times the legal level of emissions. On the phone I asked him “Let me get this right: You can’t conceive of guys from the Fatherland putting toxic gasses in the air other people were going to breathe and then lying about it?” It was a new idea to him, he was focused on not trusting the evil National Park Service.

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Your Aviation Connection:

The Homebuilt aircraft in your shop will be trustworthy because you know the ‘corporation’ that is putting it together, and ‘they’ are driven by learning and doing a good job, not making a ‘profit’ by doing the job as cheaply as possible and subverting every regulation ‘they’ can get away with.

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In the last 26 years I have seen countless examples of the management of corporations, both big and small, both certified and experimental, lying about the airworthiness of their products, just to make a profit. Go back and look at Cessna still claiming that the C-162 Skycatcher was an ideal beginners plane even after both of the first two examples were lost in unrecoverable spins, in spite of being flown by professional test pilots. Would you like some immunity? Be a homebuilder, build your own skills, work with proven designs, and work with company owners who own, use and speak frankly about the designs and components you will use.

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April 20th 1939 was Adolph Hitler’s 50th birthday, and he was presented one of the first VW’s ever made in acknowledgement of his full support of the enterprise. The business was a joint venture between Ferdinand Porsche and Albert Speer. They were not ‘just Germans’, they were both Nazi party members, SS officers, convicted war criminals, and personal friends of Hitler’s. Most Americans have never read Speer’s 900 page memoir “Inside the Third Reich” to understand that even in war, German companies were private enterprises that competed for contracts and made money. Speer was eventually head of all war production in Germany. Convicted of using slave labor, he served his full 20 year sentence, and was still in Spandau prison, long after shiny new VW bugs were popular cars in the US. It was a triumph of marketing to people who didn’t read books.

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Above, Slave labor from a German concentration camp. VW, by their own admission, used 15,000 slaves, (80% of their workforce) between 1942 and ’45. These were only supplied by the Nazi’s at the specific request of the company ownership. In America we are immensely proud of the factual image of “Rosie the Riveter.” Look at the faces in the above photo to see the difference in two worlds. Our mothers and grandmothers were paid to go to war plants with bandanas holding their hair back. Question: How angry would you be if your mother or grandmother went to the VW plant with a shaved head and a 9mm Gestapo Luger pressed to her scalp? Answer: Odds are you wouldn’t have ever been born to care, as the fatality rate, even among highly skilled slave laborers was more than 50%, for women it was much higher.

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The parody add run by National Lampoon magazine (the same people who brought you the movie Animal House) in the 1970s. VW sued the magazine for millions of dollars. They were not concerned about the joke or it’s taste, or the Kopechne family heartache. They were only concerned about the VW trademark being associated with something negative for their brand. To their perspective, a valid concern considering how much effort they had spent to go from Hitler’s car to the choice of ‘happy people’ everywhere.

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Last year I had a guy driving a VW give me a giant lecture about the fact 100% of the cars and trucks I own were built by GM. He was spitting mad, because GM had been bailed out by the US government after the financial crisis, and he told me I was “Immoral” for continuing to drive GM products. I told him I was not a fan of bail outs for either banks nor car makers, but it seemed like a smaller crime than using slaves to further the goals of Adolph Hitler, but if he felt the opposite, I was glad to know it.

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Full disclosure to those who want to send hate mail – 125 years ago 50% of my DNA was all in Germany. My maternal great grandparents were all Germans. I have been to Germany, I have worked for a German corporation, I have read the works of most German political writers from Marx to Todenhöfer. I have a handful of friends who are Germans, and I have spent far more time listening to them than speaking to them. I have never owned an imported car or truck, but I have no real objection to others who feel the need to. Please read the short note: What the 4th of July means to me. before making a decision about what my position on Germans is. I honestly think the simple fact that Americans are less respectful and obedient of authority may have been the only thing that spared us from following some of the worst leaders of our own nation. I don’t think we are superior, just raised differently. -Besides, I just write these stories to make sure I have a really short Christmas card list.

Please note that I never post comments from people that don’t include their actual names. If you have a perspective to share, have the conviction do so with your name.

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Above, a 2005 photo. With me in the photo is an old friend, Mood Juma. Mood and I got our A&P licenses together from Embry-Riddle 25 years ago. On that day he drove up in front of my Edgewater hangar in his 1967 Beetle and jokingly yelled out the window “I hear you don’t like German cars, and you don’t like people from the Middle East”  When we drove it to lunch we had a good laugh all the way.

-ww.

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