January 23

* The top story tonight: the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent federal watchdog, has released a report on the NSA bulk collection effort. Charlie Savage has the goods:

…in its report, the board lays out what may be the most detailed critique of the government’s once-secret legal theory behind the program: that a law known as Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the F.B.I. to obtain business records deemed “relevant” to an investigation, can be legitimately interpreted as authorizing the N.S.A. to collect all calling records in the country.

The program “lacks a viable legal foundation under Section 215, implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value,” the report said. “As a result, the board recommends that the government end the program.”

We’ll find out whether this watchdog is an actual oversight mechanism or just a fig leaf. I predict the substance of its recommendations will be ignored and dragnet surveillance will continue.

* On a related note, Edward Snowden did a Q and A on Twitter today. The results were interesting.

* The big money is coming out for Hillary, with the largest lefty Super PAC, Priorities USA Action, formally announcing for her today. One wonders whether this will erode her economic justice cred, should a more left-wing populist challenger emerge.

* Kevin Drum on how Medicaid could be a real sleeper issue for Democrats in 2014:

Pushing for Medicaid expansion in the holdout states could turn out to be a solid populist issue for Democrats this year. The argument is simple: It’s free medical care and it doesn’t cost the state anything. Who’s against that?

* Interesting piece on the GOP’s internal jostling around abortion. The idea is to quietly pass as many anti-abortion bills as possible at the state level, to take advantage of grassroots frenzy, while trying to keep nutters like Todd Akin out of the spotlight. We’ll see if they can thread this needle in a few months.

* If the GOP is developing something of a creepy old man problem, maybe this helps explain it: “Uncle Sugar.” Really?

* Ed Kilgore games out the next couple of Senate elections. 2016 will be heavily favorable for Democrats, so if Republicans can’t win big in 2014 they’ll be in an extremely poor position.

* Steve Benen notes that for all the talk of America being a “center-right” nation, Americans don’t seem to buy the idea that class barriers don’t exist.

* We also heard today that mobility hasn’t declined — it’s been low for decades. And if increasing mobility is largely impossible, let’s just change the distribution of resources.

* Great piece on the CIA’s secret prison camp in Stare Kiejkuty, Poland. If a security state that sets up secret torture prisons in the Bloodlands isn’t at least a little troubling, I wonder what would be.

* The administration is pushing Latinos to sign up for Obamacare, who haven’t been signing up quite as much as was hoped. The GOP’s Latino problem has long been mostly about immigration, but should this effort succeed, it could solidify Democrats’ standing in places like Arizona and Texas.

* Abandoned cannibal rat cruise ship, about to crash into Scotland?

What else?