While not exactly an epiphany, it can be said that a commercial blender, some ice and the proper ingredients can really perk up employee morale. It had been getting a bit gloomy around the PWB offices the past couple of weeks, with the return of the Cold War, the resilience of the Taliban despite having one foot in the Stone Age, Pakistan’s chaos, hurricanes swerving towards the Gulf and the mind-numbing coverage of the presidential campaign from the left and right. Even Bobo the talking intern was getting sulky and seemed disinterested in the snack foods and toys we keep in his cubicle.

It's at times like these that Americans resolve, teamed with a solid, ice-crunching Waring blender (product placement) and some refreshing beverage from Mexico that can turn a frown upside down and get the staff up and dancing like the goobers that they are. Thus was born another PWB tradition, ‘Rita Mondays. Tell me that wouldn’t make a great name for a stripper … ladies and gentlemen, the fabulous and exotic Rita Mondays, appearing twice nightly at Tiki-Dave’s Boom-Boom Room.

A hearty thank you to all the PWB readers who took the time to send in their favorite margarita recipes this past week. You’ll be happy to know that we tested every recipe that arrived. An esteemed panel of judges selected their favorites and eventually arrived at a winner. However, we’ll have to wait until the end of this week’s column to announce the first annual PWB Reader ‘Rita Champion since we do have some serious ground to cover.

We had prepared a piece on the new and improved Russia, all hulked up on petrodollars and sporting a brand new jones for reconstructing the old Soviet Union when a completely unrelated event shoved its way to the top of the charts. We’ll focus on Russia next week. Maybe by then they’ll be back in Poland.

This week much of America was surprised at the announcement from GOP candidate John McCain that he had selected Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. Her name had been tossed around in the past several weeks as a potential selection, but had never been placed on the short list as prepared by the media, strategists and pundits who clearly have the sort of insight that the rest of us can only dream about.

As soon as the announcement was made, Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike rushed to answer some very profound questions … Who is Sarah Palin? What experience does she bring to the ticket? Where exactly is Alaska? Does moose taste like chicken?

And importantly, the Democratic Offensive Response Committee (DORC), a little known research unit operated by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), immediately strapped on their mud guards and went searching for dirt. I know this because the PWB received a call from a source yesterday evening offering to provide a tape of a recent meeting.

In a sensitive and very secret gathering of the DORCs over the weekend, Democratic strategists, sympathetic media and members of the Left Leaning He-Man Women Haters Club joined together to devise strategy and eat some really tasty, organic snacks. Because nothing is too good for readers of the PWB, I flew to an undisclosed location for a clandestine meeting on Sunday night with the source to collect the tape of the meeting.

The following is a transcript which may or may not be accurate given that we worked on this deep into the afternoon of our ‘Rita Mondays festivities:

Scene: In a windowless conference room, a group of pale, somewhat glum men and women sit around a large table. Inspirational sayings from Barack Obama are posted on the walls, including the profound, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” the upbeat “Change we can believe in,” and the always popular, “Keep on truckin.'"

An older gentleman sifts through some loose papers spilling out of a file marked “Palin.” He absentmindedly pushes the papers around while speaking:

“Look, we’ve got to nip this in the bud … I mean, we got what, maybe a five point bump off the convention and now even that’s disappearing. McCain picks Mrs. Alaska here as the Veep and suddenly we can’t get Barack an interview on Nickelodeon. Seriously, we get it … she’s a female, way to go John … who cares.”

Maureen, a newspaper columnist looks up from her Blackberry. “Look Spencer, don’t get all Cheney on us … she’s not a threat. She hasn’t even been on the Sunday morning talk shows. Do you honestly expect the American voters to go for someone that hasn’t been on the Sunday morning talk shows? Do you know how important those Sunday morning talk shows are to the average American outside of Washington? Nobody’s winning this campaign unless they’ve been on 'Meet the Press.'”

A smallish man with a ferret-like appearance speaks up from one end of the table. “Maybe so, but we gotta be prepared. My boys have been doing a little Dumpster diving up there in Alaska and we got ourselves some pretty good dirt. Seems like her 17 year old daughter is pregnant …”

Spencer the Strategist stares at the man. “We know that already, Fenster. Her hometown was aware of the situation, she advised McCain during the vetting process and she and her husband made a public statement about it on Monday.”

Another strategist jumps in. “And Barack said it’s a non-issue … so did the other guy, uh…”

“Joe Biden?” asked Maureen.

“Yeah, him.”

Fenster seems unconcerned. “Right, whatever. OK … we got the husband on a DUI back in 1986 when he was 22. Law breakin’ dirtbag.”

Spencer stands up slowly with a weary look. “Hmm … show of hands … who here has had a traffic violation or DUI?” He looks around. “OK, that’s roughly 80 percent of this room. What else you got, Fenster?”

He opens up a small notebook and reads: “She’s only 44. She’s been governor of Alaska for two years and before that was mayor of a small town of maybe 8 or 9,000 people for six years. The Republicans want us to think she’s experienced enough to be VP?”

Spencer puts his hand up to interrupt. “Uh, let’s not go down that road.”

The others in the room nod in unison.

Maureen looks up. “How about the family thing?” She leans forward to explain. “I mean, here’s a woman with five kids and a husband. As a woman, I’m really concerned that she won’t have time to raise her family, cook a decent meal and be the Vice President of the United States. Honestly, I think she’s stretching herself too thin. It’s not good for her kids and it’s not good for the country.”

Constance, an extra keen Obamatron and junior strategist looks at her. “But isn’t that what we fought for as feminists? The chance to have it all, to break the glass ceiling and prove we’re every bit as good as a man?”

“Please, what are you, 23, maybe 24?” Maureen stands up and walks over to the selection of organic teas on the sideboard. “The feminist creed says that Democratic women are every bit as good as men. It doesn’t say anything about Republican women, that’s a different story.”

Constance thinks for a minute. “So, we play up the fact that Palin has too much on her plate to be Vice President. She may be young, dynamic and talented, but she should put her family first, and if she doesn’t …”

Spencer warms to the subject. “Then she’s a bad American with poor family values. Brilliant. Let’s get the talking points printed up and sent off to the New York Times, they’re standing by.”

The tape cuts off at this point. We’ll continue to monitor the DORCs and report on their activities as we collect available intelligence.

So what have we learned? Politics is ugly. If you didn’t know that, you’re about to find out. The next few weeks will generate more bile than some of the margarita recipes we tested.

The Democrats talked a good game about change and a new political landscape leading up to the general election. What a load of crap. They’re aggravated that the race is almost a dead heat, irritated that they didn’t get a bigger bump from the Democratic Coronation party in Denver and really surly that the Republicans put a young woman on the ticket. From the Democrats perspective, the Republicans are peeing on their traditional territory. Palin’s husband is even a union member, dammit.

In the meantime, we’re proud to announce the winner of the first ever PWB Reader ‘Rita Contest. Congrats go to Dave from Plano, Texas who sent in the following:

Ingredients:

2 oz. Reposado Tequila

¾ oz. Cointreau

Juice of 1 lime

1 oz simple syrup (made by heating ½ cup water to boil and adding ½ cup sugar to fully dissolve)

Mix all the ingredients in a shaker with a few cubes of ice and shake the hell out of it. Strain and serve. Repeat.

Runner-up kudos to the most interesting recipe, submitted by Thomas from parts unknown:

Ingredients (I am not making this up):

Two 12 oz. cans of Mountain Dew

Two 12 oz. cans of frozen limeade

Two 12 oz. bottles of Corona

1 liter of bottom shelf tequila

Mix all the ingredients together in a large container and serve chilled.

Thanks to everyone who responded to last week’s column. If you get the chance, send a note to the PWB and let us know your thoughts, complaints and concerns. Send your comments to peoplesweeklybrief@hotmail.com.

Til’ next week, stay safe.

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, writer 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.