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Given President-elect Barack Obama's "commitment to change instead of business as usual, now is the time to end the spoils system," the union argues.

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About 30 percent of ambassadorships -- the ones to posh posts -- traditionally go to pals and fat-cat contributors. AFSA wants to cut it down "to a maximum of 10 percent," which would go a long way toward "ending the unchecked spoils system under which scores" of political hacks and others are picked for jobs "for which they are unqualified."

A noble thought. Fat chance.

Condi's Choice

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was interviewed yesterday on CBS Radio, where she made a long statement about how great it is to have a black president.

"May I take it," she's asked, "that you actually preferred a victory for Senator Obama rather than John McCain?"

"I have constantly told people," she said, "that I was secretary of state and I was not going to get into a partisan debate and I would vote by -- vote by ballot in a secret way, as all Americans do. But I just want to acknowledge that when the election took place and after the election took place, it was a special time for Americans."

So that's a yes?

It's Gotta Be Brangelina

Buzz is that President-elect Barack Obama may announce, maybe even as early as today, that Clinton administration Environmental Protection Agency chief Carol Browner, now a principal at the Albright Group, will hold a new White House position as head of environment, energy, climate and related matters.

Unclear if any of the related agency chiefs within her portfolio are going to be named. Chatter intensified yesterday that a big-name "knock your socks off" pick was on tap to take over the Energy Department -- touching off speculation that it had to be Brangelina or California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) or former secretary of state Colin Powell. But several sources insisted it was not Schwarzenegger. His office maintained yesterday that he's staying in California. "He plans to stay in office until the end of his term," Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said. A Powell confidant said most unlikely. No comment so far from Brangelina.

Say Hi to Gov. Ryan for Us!

For a short time yesterday, Obama's Senate seat was available for sale on eBay. Bids started at 99 cents. "From the mouth of Blago himself, 'It's a (bleeping) valuable thing. You just don't give it away for nothing.' Happy bidding!" the listing reportedly said.

The seller self-identified as "a poor student journalist in need of grocery money," according to reports. Just hours later, the listing was stripped from eBay.

At Amazon.com, meanwhile, a "wish list" was created for the soon-to-be-former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich (D), featuring such titles as "How to Open Locks With Improvised Tools" and "Who Moved My Soap?: The CEO's Guide to Surviving in Prison," as well as the DVDs of "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Prison Break: Season One."

Quote of the Week . . .

We have a winner. It is, of course, the outgoing Illinois governor, quoted in Chicago newspapers yesterday morning. "I don't believe there's any cloud that hangs over me. I think there's nothing but sunshine hanging over me," the governor said Monday. Got a tad cloudier at 6 a.m. Tuesday, with a chance of incarceration.

With Philip Rucker


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