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March 2007

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Beast of the Month - March 2007

Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil CEO

"I yam an anti-Christ..."

John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"

Al Gore may never command the White House like he was elected to by American voters, but he's done pretty good for himself lately. Already, he's been nominated for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in raising awareness on global warming. (Then again, anyone can become a Nobel Prize nominee, provided they fill out the paperwork at any participating Burger King.) Perhaps more important in this age of celebrity, his flick An Inconvenient Truth won two Oscars in February, including Best Documentary. Somehow we suspect that Shrub doesn't have an Oscar or Nobel Peace Prize in his future.

Yeah, we know: Gore is still an establishment politician with an establishment vision. Still, given these limitations, the presentation of evidence in his doc (whose companion book was a New York Times bestseller) is so impressive and overwhelming, the best criticism of the film is the concluding steps it advocates (drive a hybrid, recycle) trivialize the seriousness of the crisis. Perhaps Roger Ebert said it best in his review of the film: "In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to."

Of course, we at The Konformist like our exposes a little harder hitting that point (and give) the finger where it is deserved. That's why, with all due respect to An Inconvenient Truth, the best documentary released in theaters in 2006 (thus disqualifying the stunning 9/11 dissident film Loose Change) was Who Killed the Electric Car? The film tells about the quick rise and fall of General Motors EV1, which were removed from the market despite a popular following and literally crushed out of existence. The answer to the film's main question: the auto industry, the Bush Administration and, most important of all, the oil companies conspired to make an automobile (that was succeeding despite the best wishes of its maker) disappear from the market.

Ah, the oil companies. Is there a better symbol for villainy in the age of Bush and Cheney? (Aided, in no small part, by the fact that Bush and Cheney were oil executives themselves.) All the big problems, from Global Warming to the War in Iraq, have their fingerprints all over the place. The biggest of the big, ExxonMobil is the biggest korporation in the world according to the Fortune 500, with revenues exceeding an astounding $377 billion in 2006. Its profits, powered by gas pump prices that gouged consumers at over $3 a gallon, were a korporate record of $39.5 billion for the year. The previous record? Its 2005 total of 36.13 billion.

In 2006, Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil's CEO and The Konformists Beast of the Month, received $18.5 million in compensation. This is actually cheap compared to his predecessor, Lee Raymond, who created ExxonMobil by merging the two biggest jewels of the Standard Oil empire. In his final year as CEO in 2005, Raymond (who even surpasses Donkey Dick Cheney as a walking caricature of an evil obese oil executive, and was BOTM in his own right in January 1999) received a $400 million golden parachute package for his efforts.

Obscene pay for korporate offers isn't the only thing ExxonMobil is spending its money on. Among its other uses for funds is cozying up to dictatorships around the world (most notably in Indonesia and Africa) for sweetheart oil deals at the expense of the citizen's under the authoritarian thumb. This includes financing and promoting the violent crackdown on both political dissidents and labor forces. Back in the USA, meanwhile, they have spent millions as well to oppose any environmental regulations and open up the Arctic to oil companies.

ExxonMobil has also been the major financier of "science" disputing the evidence of global warming, paying $16 million from 1998 to 2005 to groups (many of which are "astroturf" in creation) devoted to the cause, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a promotion of pseudo-science deception rivaled only by the tobacco industry. Among the uses for these funds: a YouTube video mocking Al Gore and An Inconvenient Truth, titled Al Gore's Penguin Army, was covertly funded by DCI Group, a PR firm tied to Exxon and the GOP. One "think tank" funded by ExxonMobil, the American Enterprise Institute, offered to bribe scientists and economists to a tune of $10,000 for papers disputing a scientific report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirming global warming and its link to human activities. The vice-chairman of the AEI is none other than Lee Raymond.

(Unsurprisingly, among those still not receiving ExxonMobil funds are victims of the Exxon Valdez. Last March, on the 17th anniversary of the disaster, Congressman Dave Reichert of Washington declared: “I’m frankly appalled that after almost 20 years, the fisherman and others who lost their livelihoods as a result of Exxon’s negligence still have not received a single penny of the punitive damages awarded to them by a federal jury... 33,000 fishermen, businesses, and affected communities are still waiting for just compensation.")

If there is any good news here, some damage has begun to those linked to ExxonMobil and the plunderers in the oil cabal, at least in the auto industry. This year, GM has been surpassed by Toyota as the world's largest auto maker. There are many reasons why Toyota (which has also passed Ford Motor as the second biggest auto company in the US market) has taken over as Mr. Big in the auto industry, but much of it can be linked to philosopher Andre Agassi's concept of "image is everything." Simply put, when consumer's think of Toyota, they think of the environmental-friendly hybrid Prius, while when GM comes to mind, the first image that pops in one's head is the gas-guzzling Hummer. At a time of gas ripoffs, this is not a comforting symbol for a car manufacturer. If only GM had another car to be its symbol in this era of environmental awareness and outrage over gas prices. Something like, say, the EV1 electric car. (Whoops.)

Of course, The Konformist can't help but wonder when Tillerson and ExxonMobil are personally hit over their creepy actions. Maybe it won't ever happen: after all, oil is a good which historically has a highly inelastic demand with changes in price. Still, a consumer revolt against ridiculous gas prices can be in the making over the continued gouging of customers, and perhaps ExxonMobil, the baddest of the bad, will be hit first. The Konformist can only hope.

In any case, we salute Rex Tillerson as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Rex!!!


The Konformist

Robert Sterling

Post Office Box 24825

Los Angeles, California 90024-0825

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