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July 19th, 2008:

Bell’s campaign kickoff

The official campaign kickoff for Chris Bell is tomorrow at his new campaign headquarters. The details:

WHO: Chris Bell and friends open Texas Senate campaign HQ
WHEN: Sunday, July 20th, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
WHERE: 4019 S. Braeswood Blvd @ Stella Link, Houston, TX, 77025
RSVP: (713) 978-7701 or [email protected]

I’ve mentioned the matter of Bell getting adequate funding for this race. Here’s one reason why that’s important:

In the special election to replace state Sen. Kyle Janek, former judge Joan Huffman leads other contenders in fundraising thanks mostly to a $500,000 bank loan she secured and a $100,000 contribution from West Texas music impresario Herbert Graham.

Bell starts out with a big lead in name ID, but Huffman has taken a big step towards closing that gap. I hope he’s got a lot of commitments lined up.

And the special mystery guest is…

…Al Gore. Or so I’m told. But first, Rep. Lloyd Doggett is giving Speaker Pelosi a rousing introduction. The question is when Gore will appear and whether it will be spontaneous or introduced. Will report back when it happens.

UPDATE: And here he is. The crowd went nuts – big, long standing ovation. He’s speaking now about the need for an informed citizenry, and also about the environment, speicifcally the potential melting of the north polar ice cap and its effects on the world.

UPDATE: Four standing ovations later, he’s done. He touted his new website, WeCanSolveIt.org as he wrapped up. Time for more questions, with a warning to the crowd that “soliloquies” will be cut off – that got applause, too.

First question: Would Gore accept a position with the Obama administration? Answer: “I am honored by the suggestion, I want to convey my respect for the idea as I explain why I think it’s not the best thing for me to do.” Basically, he’s gonna keep doing what he’s doing. I think that’s a good call.

UPDATE: For more on this session, check out The Texas Blue and Three Wise Men.

Netroots Nation, day 3

I thought our panel went pretty well yesterday. It was well attended given its local appeal, and we got a number of good questions from the audience. We panelists – Vince, Matt, Boadicea and I – hardly let our poor moderator, Brian Hamon of Eye on Williamson get a word in edgewise. We talked a lot about the politics of the Legislature, and how a lot of the bad policy choices the Republicans have made in recent sessions have left them on the brink of losing control of a chamber they once dominated. All these panels have been video recorded, so I assume it’s online somewhere; if I can find the linkage, I’ll post it.

Much as I’ve enjoyed attending and participating in these panels, I think I’ve enjoyed meeting and talking to people in the halls and after panels even more. I’ve met quite a few bloggers that I’ve read for a long time – Atrios, Ezra Klein, Jesse Taylor, Digby, and Kos himself, to name several – and a number of people who read my blog. It’s a cliche to say that it’s nice to put faces to names, or to disembodied pixels as the case may be, but it’s also true. Meeting the folks who make up the community makes the experience better, and I have really enjoy the opportunity to do it.

The presence of the RightOnline conference going on nearby has generated some interest among the reporters here. The Chron’s RG Ratcliffe did a little video interview with some participants in NN and RO, including Rick Noriega, Peggy Venable, Matt Bramanti, and me. Note how Bramanti identifies the same reason why progressives are out in front of online organizing as I did. Whoever said the left and the right couldn’t agree on stuff? And Forrest Wilder of the Texas Observer catches an awkward question during a panel on media bashing “Understanding and Critiquing the Old Media”. You never do know who’s listening in, do you?

I promised some photos from the kickoff party Thursday night. They were taken at night with a flash from about fifteen feet away, so most of them aren’t worth publishing. About the only one worth showing is Gen. Clark introducing Rick Noriega:

Here’s a much better photo, of something a little different. When I arrived back at our friends’ house last night, after an enthusiastic greeting from the girls, Olivia informed me that she and Audrey had been working on an art project that day. She led me over to the table where they were, and showed me their labors:

And that would be why I didn’t go to any parties Friday night. As much fun as NN has been, that was better.

Oh, and in case anyone is curious: I managed to not oversleep this morning. So, I should be there at 8:30 to find out who the “special guest” is that people have been hyping. I’ll update when I learn the identity.

Obama’s haul in June

Impressive.

Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee revved up their money machine in June, outpacing their Republican rivals by almost $25 million, the Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign said Thursday.

Obama and the party have also all but caught up to Republican standard-bearer John McCain and the Republican National Committee in the amount they have available to spend.

McCain and the RNC had about $95 million in the bank at the end of June, while Obama and the DNC had about $92 million.

Reports that detail the numbers are scheduled to be released Sunday, when the campaigns must file their monthly disclosures with the Federal Election Commission.

In a preview of the full report, Obama disclosed Thursday that his fundraising increased to $52 million in June, after a down month in May when he raised $22 million. Obama nearly matched his all-time high of $55 million, which he raised in February.

By contrast, McCain raised $22 million in June, an uptick from the $21.2 million he raised in May, his campaign had reported earlier.

[…]

The June report suggests Obama and his party will be able to raise the hundreds of millions that they plan to spend on the general election campaign.

“The sky is the limit,” said political scientist Bruce Cain, head of the University of California Washington Center. “Whatever the other guy raises, you want to raise more. It’s an arms race. It will be a record amount.”

Since clinching the nomination, Obama has shifted his focus to emphasize views that appeal to centrist independent voters, raising speculation that he risked losing his all-important small-donor base.

But according to his campaign, Obama’s average donation in June was $68. The modest amount suggests Obama’s small-donor base remains enthusiastic, Cain said, adding: “That makes it an even more positive signal.”

As you might imagine, Barack Obama is a frequent conversation topic here; his campaign is a fairly pervasive presence as well. There was definitely some muttering about how in particular his change on FISA might hurt his fundraising. Guess that’s not the case, though perhaps next month will tell yet another story. In any event, they’re clearly on track, and it’s good to see.

NBA India

New frontiers for the NBA.

Could LeBron James or Shaquille O’Neal catch on in the Hindi heartland?

The NBA certainly hopes so as it plans a major push to introduce basketball to India and expand its already formidable global reach into a country with a soaring economy, a growing appetite for Western tastes, and, most importantly, 1.1 billion potential fans.

The NBA has had tremendous success selling basketball overseas, most notably in China, where the league estimates 300 million people play the sport and Houston Rockets center Yao Ming is a national icon.

India, a relatively untapped territory, looms as the NBA’s next great challenge.

But it could be a tough sell. The few public basketball courts attract little attention, and words like “slam-dunk” and “alley-oop” are met with blank stares.

To help counter that, the NBA held its first-ever event in India last week, a “Basketball Without Borders” camp that featured charity events and basketball clinics in which NBA players instructed young Asians.

League executives say they’re considering a wide range of plans to spread the game, including building courts in remote villages, seeking endorsements from Bollywood stars, and bringing NBA players to India for exhibitions.

“We see tremendous growth potential for basketball in India,” said Heidi Ueberroth, the NBA’s chief of global marketing. “The interest in sports is by no means saturated.”

[…]

Basketball is most popular among cosmopolitan Indians, for whom the game carries a whiff of Western sophistication. America’s ultimate gritty playground game has, in India, largely become a game for the children of the elite.

“My students, they go to U.S., Europe, and there they have so much of a basketball culture,” said Deepak Shukla, who coaches a basketball team at an exclusive New Delhi school. “They have Shaquille O’Neal shoes they get from U.S. … My students are from (wealthy) families.”

“The poor people will play cricket,” he said. Basketball “requires great infrastructure and money.”

Fascinating. Given their success in China – aided, of course, by Yao Ming – the NBA should be in a good position to make inroads in India. I have wonder, though, given the huge popularity of cricket there, what Major League Baseball is doing. You’d think baseball would be more of a natural fit with cricket fans. Anyway, it’s a good read, so check it out. Link via AOL Fanhouse.