First, let me apologize for the slight difficulties we experienced in tallying the votes for this year’s Crappies. We unfortunately had to delay the announcement of the winners for 24 hours while several hundred e-mail addresses were crossed checked with NSA databases to ensure that everything was on the up and up. This caused a fair amount of confusion and added significantly to the bar tab as we camped out at Buzzy’s 8 Ball Lounge waiting for official clarification.

As it turns out, verifying voter data is hard work — and honestly, is it really worth it? I mean, given all the other problems we’ve got right now, how spun up can you get over the old voter fraud thing? After all, one person’s voter fraud is apparently another person’s effort to suppress the ability of a fictitious voter to pull the lever for someone else’s agenda.

Frankly, why we don’t encourage anyone with a pulse to vote as often as possible during any given election is beyond me. Look at American Idol… you think they spend time worrying about the validity of text votes? And season after season they end up with someone who, while they might not sing all that well, could certainly pass muster as a congressman or senator. A couple of winners have even looked relatively presidential.

Regardless, back at Buzzy’s the newest PWB interns, respectfully named Two and Three, managed to tally the votes. Bobo took time out from a plate of wings the size of a Delta 88 to confirm that interns Two and Three can count, and Fenster, CPA to the stars, declared the results done and dusted while simultaneously ordering another gimlet.

And now, your 2008 Crappies:

Walking away with the best male politician Crappie, our very own Barack Obama for his terrific performance in “My Big Fat Socialist Government.” The PWB is very excited to announce that we’ll be closing out this week’s column with a rendition of the hit song from Obama’s show, “Spread the Wealth Around.”

In the category of best female politician, this wasn’t even close. The overwhelming majority of voters let the chad hang down for Nancy Pelosi.

Honestly, given her remarkable unblinking rendition as the faultless official in “Blameless in Washington,” her selection for a Crappie can hardly be considered a surprise.

Likewise, Barney Frank captured the voters' imagination and respect for his uncanny ability to act like he had nothing to do with the economic crisis. The PWB is proud to hand Barney this year’s Crappie for Most Disingenuous Performance. The smart money is on a repeat for next year’s award.

In a very tight race, the Crappie for Best Performance by a Corporation or Financial Institution has gone to Corporate America, Wall Street and a Supporting Cast of Global Financial Players. Most voters decided that it would be churlish to hand the award to a single institution, although AIG certainly made a popular bridesmaid.

In the foreign category of Top Dictator, voters eventually gave the nod to everybody’s favorite bearded hobbit, Iran’s President Ahmadinejad. His ability to wrench emotion out of the audience night after night in the melancholy musical “Nukes to You” won out even over Hugo Chavez’s lighthearted portrayal of a bully with a heart of gold fighting an addiction to oil profits.

Finally, the People’s Choice award for Biggest Yutz of 2008 is awarded to… the American public. Ladies and gentlemen, it wasn’t even close. Yes, there were scattered votes for everyone from George Bush to Joe Biden to Jesse Jackson to Usama Bin Laden, but in the end, well over 80 percent of the voters nominated the American public as the biggest collective Yutz of the year. While the logistics of making and shipping a Crappie for every citizen of this great country may prove daunting, we’re prepared to give it a shot. After all, we deserve it.

Voters had different reasons for selecting the American public as the winner…

One reader, who we’ve dubbed Angry Don, wrote that “… the voting public for the most part are ignorant sheep…they should get the Crappie for Biggest Yutz for their clueless, apathetic approach to Civics 101.”

Deb from New Mexico said "Taxpayers win the award for electing the Yutzes that appointed the Yutzes that failed to oversee the Yutzes that…” you get the point. She added that “P.S…. I think you should televise the event, we’re in urgent need of comic relief.”

A loyal reader who shall remain anonymous wrote that “… the American people win the Yutz award for allowing the institution that creates laws, interprets laws and enforces laws to now own my mortgage, control my investments, determine how much wealth is fair to possess and soon oversee my health care. What could possibly go wrong with that?” I’m not positive, but I think he’s being facetious with his question.

Many, many voters voiced similar thoughts… basically it seems that there is a general understanding that all of us average folk share some responsibility. Whether it was for trying to game the mortgage system or simply for not demanding more of our elected officials, or even for not trying our best to be informed, we can’t heap all the blame on Congress, any particular administration or Wall Street. As the saying goes, don’t throw stones in glass houses, particularly if you’re sitting on an adjustable rate mortgage.

But take heart… I suspect that we won’t have to live with the blame thing for long. During our regular morning staff meeting the other day we consulted the Magic 8 Ball regarding the upcoming election. I consider the Magic 8 Ball to be as accurate, perhaps more so, than any of the polling wonks that surface during national elections. This fateful morning I asked “Is socialism just around the corner?” Bobo shook the hell out of the ball and we all peered into the abyss. Slowly the answer appeared… “You bet."

So there you have it. The beauty of socialism is that it doesn’t encourage the population to feel responsible for anything. No responsibility, no blame… my stress level is already dropping. And just think, not only does it promote mediocrity, it practically rewards it. How much better will you feel in the coming years as we grow the national entitlement scheme and reduce that pesky, nagging feeling that hard work is rewarded.

Spread the wealth around. Hooyah. I never thought I’d see a presidential candidate talk about income redistribution… well, not here in the United States anyway. The government is taking an ownership interest in banks… politicians see nothing wrong with limiting corporate profits to whatever they view as appropriate… Obama talks about spreading the wealth around and the faithful nod happily… clearly I missed the meeting where we all voted to renounce capitalism and go live on a collective.

One last question for the Magic 8 Ball… “Are we throwing out the baby with the bathwater?” I’d like to stick around for the answer but I’m late for my re-education class.

As always, we look forward to your comments, thoughts and insight. Send your e-mails to peoplesweeklybrief@hotmail.com.

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.