The polls closed earlier this week in the Peoples Weekly Brief first annual Just Shut Up contest. In honor of the King of Spain, who recently uttered those magical words to Hugo Chavez, we asked the readers of the PWB to let us know, if you were King, who would you tell to shut up?

Well, the response was impressive. Emails poured in from all parts of the country and overseas… some were even tame enough to read to the kids. Many were not. It seems our readership has a bit of bottled up frustration.

Thanks to the good folks over at the NSA for their invaluable assistance in tabulating the results of the survey. Using software engineered specifically for the PWB, we were able to track, collate and do other important sounding stuff with your responses. This allowed us to avoid relying on the less than adequate mathematical and analytical skills of the PWB research department.

While the bulk of the results will be released in the form of a National Intelligence Estimate as requested by members of Congress, we are authorized at this time to release a few of the more interesting highlights.

Hillary Clinton was the overall winner, although admittedly with only a slight majority of votes over the second place finishers. Tied for second… Iran’s President Ahmadinejad and the Hollywood establishment. Both received 11 percent of the overall vote, trailing Hillary by a mere 5 percent.

Mind you, the margin of error is plus or minus 5, which means that on any given day the actual results may not mean squat. Actually, I don’t know what the hell a margin of error is, but I know it’s always included in polls so I thought we should have one.

Other top vote getters included Nancy Pelosi, President Bush, former President Jimmy Carter, Rosie O’donnell and a jumbled category termed “the politically correct mafia.” Al Sharpton made it into the top 20, as did Al Gore, Dick Cheney and Michael Moore.

Interestingly, Bin Laden only received one vote. Amazing, since he and his sidekick Zawahiri have been unusually vocal this year, releasing several audio and video tapes as well as a best-of collection and of course their annual Christmas single.

Also coming in with one vote, the late Marcel Marceaux. Unusual but inspired.

Overall, we were surprised at how spread out the voting was… there wasn’t a single, commanding vote-getter that swamped all others. Clearly the PWB readership is a diverse and somewhat cranky group irritated by a wide range of individuals. Lots of you voted for family members, neighbors, local politicians and other rather personalized choices that skewed the survey results.

It’s nice to know that some of you, given the opportunity to be King for the day, would wander down the street to tell your neighbor to tidy up the front yard, or command your irritating son-in-law to quit being such an ass. While some would wield their royal scepter at world leaders, others would stick to the local scene and silence town councilmen or those pesky heads of neighborhood associations.

Frankly I hate neighborhood associations. The last time I lived in a neighborhood with an association, they sent me letters telling me I was in violation of the Geneva Convention for painting my front door an unauthorized color. What a load of crap. Our forefathers struggled and fought for our right to bear arms, practice whatever religion we see fit and paint our houses however we damn well please. Despite what skeptics may think, much of the world still respects America…and in no small part due to each and every citizens' ability to practice freedom of home decorating.

We’ll be notifying winners individually via email. The shipping department assures me that they’ll get PWB crap boxed and shipped out in time for whatever holiday you happen to celebrate, but I’ve got my doubts. We’re still waiting for government lab results to ensure that some of the stuff manufactured in China doesn’t contain too much lead. Mind you, we reserve the right to determine exactly how much is too much. Suffice it to say, if you’re a lucky recipient of cool PWB merchandise, don’t get it anywhere near your mouth or spend too much time fondling it. At least until we get liability insurance sorted out.

By the way, this week’s dispatch is coming to you from London. There’s a bit of business to attend to before I can hunker down for the Christmas break, so I traveled over to the motherland for a few days to get stuff done.

If you haven’t visited this wonderful city before, let me take the opportunity to say… whatever you do, for God’s sake don’t visit now. Let me explain. In economic terms, if Billy has one dollar, and Sally has one dollar, the two of them still don’t have one British pound. If I take all my available dollars, stuff them in a sack and march on down to Selfridges, I can buy either a jar of marmite, one box of Jaffa cakes or possibly a Thomas the Tank Engine toy assuming they’ve sorted out the lead content issue.

Suffice it to say, the dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to on your UK getaway. Remember Europe for Five Dollars a Day? For you younger readers, that was a popular book back in the days when your parents were cool, traveled the world and engaged in activities that you don’t think they were capable of or knew anything about. You better have your own hedge fund if you plan on visiting Europe in the current economic climate.

I don’t have the big brain required to understand such things, but I do wonder how the dollar has sunk to such lows when compared to the British pound or, amazingly, the Euro. Last time I checked, if you scratch beneath the media coverage and look at the statistics, the U.S. economy is actually in pretty good shape.

Sure the subprime crisis is disturbing and a drag on the overall engine, but the dollar was in the toilet compared to the pound and Euro well before we all learned that you can’t pay for a $300,000 home on a $25,000 annual salary. I understand there’s an upside in trade terms to having a weak dollar, I just have a hard time appreciating that fact when I’m standing in Leicester Square paying $78 for a KitKat. If I save up my pennies for the rest of the day, you’ll find me at the pub tonight nursing a mighty expensive pint of Guinness.

Luckily for the Brits, while the American spending power has declined and there aren’t as many Yanks wandering the streets buying up goods and handing out Hershey bars and stockings, the Russians have leapt into the breech with vast quantities of rubles. The UK is currently awash in Russian money. Actually, the Russians and the Arabs are in a pitched battle to see who can purchase more UK assets. If it sounds like I’m jealous, I am. It’s no fun being a superpower when your currency has no mojo.

And finally, speaking of Russia, congratulations to Vladimir Putin for his exceptionally well played game of Squash the Democracy. There should be absolutely no surprise in his latest move. At a congress of the United Russia party, which Putin leads, he had his chosen successor, Dmitri Medvedev, nominated as the party’s candidate for president. At the same time, Putin announced that, if Medvedev is elected president, he (Putin) will serve as the prime minister. Kudos to Putin for announcing all this without smirking.

Apparently the United Russia congress voted 478 to 1 in favor of his plan. This begs the question… who the hell was the one person voting against Putin? The beauty of this result, aside from us getting to deal with Putin as Russia’s defacto leader for many more years, is that he has been fairly transparent in his planning over the past several months. For quite some time he’s been dropping subtle hints about his intentions. At one point he mentioned that he planned on remaining in a position of power after he gives up the presidency. For those of you keeping score, that was a clue.

Regardless, people still seemed caught off guard to some degree. Immediately after Putin announced his plans to be prime minister should Medvedev win the role of Charlie McCarthy, much of the media scampered to figure out what it all meant. Lots of earnest Russian experts gathered in front of the cameras to discuss the meaning of it all.

Are you kidding? It means Putin likes power and doesn’t plan on moving out of the Kremlin. How deep a thinker do you have to be to understand that one? I suspect that Putin, Chavez and Ahmadinejad have got a betting pool going to see who can stay in power longer. My money’s on Vladimir. Of course, since I’m playing with dollars, I probably won’t be able to get anyone to take my bet.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you an unspecific yet very inclusive happy holiday. I look forward to dealing with the unruly PWB readership throughout 2008 and very much appreciate all your comments and insight. Till next week, stay safe.

Send your emails to peoplesweeklybrief@hotmail.com

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Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector, including most recently Prescience LLC, a global intelligence and strategy firm. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on such issues. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks" as well as major motion pictures. In addition, Baker is a writer for a BBC drama to begin production in July 2007.