Ban on the Band: Los Tigres del Norte Silenced

The long-running effort to silence bands performing narcocorridos has taken a major turn with authorities in the capital of Mexico’s Chihuahua state indefinitely banning one of the most famous norteno groups, Los Tigres del Norte, from playing in the city.

The move came four days before gunmen in the western Mexican state of Sinaloa killed a member of another well-known band specializing in songs lauding the exploits of drug lords and lamenting their travails.

Chihuahua city’s ban on Los Tigres del Norte, the dominant norteno band for the last 30 years, was in response to a recent concert performed by the band during which they sang some of their most famous drug ballads, including “Queen of the Pacific,” which praises Sandra Avila Beltran, a female trafficker currently held in jail on drug charges. That song reached the number one spot in the Billboard Magazine Latin chart in 2002.

In announcing the ban on March 12, the city authorities said in a statement that by singing three drug ballads at a concert two days previously the band had violated a three-month-old city statute which forbids songs that glamorize narcotics trafficking and drug lords.

Los Tigres del Norte “will not get permits for future shows in the city limits, until such time as authorities decide otherwise,” the city said in its statement. The city government has imposed a 20,000 pesos fine on the concert organizers.

City Governance Director Javier Torres Cardona says, “we ask concert organizers and artists themselves to think about the difficult situation the country is in.”

In a Twitter posting in response to the ban, Los Tigres del Norte denied knowledge of the city statute forbidding live performances of narcocorridos. But the band, one of the most successful norteno groups that has received a slew of music awards in both Mexico and the United States and has a huge following in Central America, is no stranger to controversy — nor is it unfamiliar with bans.

In 2009, the organizers of a music awards ceremony told the group that they couldn’t perform one of their hit ballads “La Granja” or “The Farm.”  Los Tigres del Norte responded by canceling their appearance. In 2002 Los Tigres del Norte had to drop plans to release a single of a new corrido entitled, “Cronica de un Cambio,” which was critical of the administration of President Fox, because national radio chains warned they would not play the song.

Los Tigres albums sell in the millions, and Los Tigres concerts can draw upwards of 100,000 fans.

Since 2002, there have been many moves to ban narcocorridos. Mexican President Vicente Fox proposed a blanket federal ban, and the Mexican Senate looked at the possibility of a nationwide prohibition in 2001, but freedom of speech legislation blocked the possibility of such a ban.

Instead, the Senate urged individual states to curtail narcocorridos, arguing that the songs “create a virtual justification for drug traffickers.”  Several senators have continued over the years to call for a national ban.

And several states and cities have imposed live performance bans of narcocorridos, including the city of Tijuana and the states of Nuevo Leon and Baja California Norte. Mario Enrique Mayans Concha of the Baja California branch of Mexico’s Chamber of Radio and Television Industry says that “narco-ballads are an apology for violence and supports a narco-culture that influences the young.”

Last year in May, Sinaloa Gov. Mario Lopez Valdez issued a decree barring narcocorridos in bars, nightclubs and banquet halls. The governor argued that the songs in effect advocate and condone violence and crime. Establishments in the state that allow narcocorridos to be played risk having their liquor licenses rescinded.

Other jurisdictions have negotiated or encouraged voluntary bans. In Baja California local radio stations agreed a black-out on drug ballads.

Despite the moves to silence the music, narcocorridos remain highly popular and some music observers question whether the bans may be having a reverse effect by highlighting the drug ballads.

Narcocorridos are rooted in Mexican history and can be traced in tradition back to the 1930s when corridos that focused on drug smugglers were first written. The first non-narco corridos go back as far as the 1910 Mexican Revolution when ballads were sung in praise of revolutionary fighters.

Musician and critic Elijah Wald, the author of the book “Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns and Guerrillas, is critical of the ban, arguing that it would be like banning the Rolling Stones in the U.S. or Britain. He says this ban is significant for two reasons. First because of the importance of the band. And second because these are old songs. “They have been banned for singing drug-related songs that are old and have been made into movies.”

He told Agora that the ban imposed in Tijuana in 2010 on the band Los Tucanes de Tijuana was “probably the best thing that had happened to them in PR terms in the past five years.”

But PRD politician César Flores Maldonado  believes “it is necessary to stop the growth of the genre which glorifies criminals.” He adds: “This is about Mexican national health and these songs need to be regulated.”

At times narcocorrido bands have censored themselves. In an interview with Billboard magazine, Mario Quintero, composer and lead guitarist of Los Tucanes de Tijuana, said he exercised restraint with his lyrics after the murder in November 2006 in Reynosa of the singer Valentín Elizalde, who was thought to have been killed by gunmen linked to the Gulf cartel in retaliation for songs supportive of the Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

Certainly being a narcocorrido singer can be dangerous. That was emphasized again on March 16 when Rodolfo Gomez Valenzuela, a member of the band Cartel de Sinaloa group was slain while rehearsing  in a house in the town of San Pedro. His brother, drummer Roberto Clemente Gomez Valenzuela, was also hit in the attack and remains hospitalized in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa, according to state police. The gunmen opened fire on everyone in the band after they burst into the house. Police found at the scene at least six .45-caliber shell casings and security forces launched an search for the killers.

This is the second time that Cartel de Sinaloa has been attacked. On September 26, 2009 band member José Antonio Sánchez Velázquez was slain, one of more than a dozen Mexican musicians  killed since 2006.

The most prominent of those murdered include Valentin Elizalde and Sergio Gomez, the singer of the band K-Paz de la Sierra. On June 26 2010 Sergio Vega was shot dead in Sinaloa state. Other music industry figures killed include Javier Morales Gómez of Los Implacables del Norte, four members of Tecno Banda Fugaz and four members of Los Padrinos de la Sierra.

 

Calderon Pushes Police Reform

 

Modernizing the Mexican Police?

 

With just months to go in office President Felipe Calderon is redoubling his efforts to persuade the country’s state governors to quicken the pace on implementing  the vetting of state police forces and improving law-enforcement training in order to meet a deadline early next year.

His cajoling of Mexico’s governors to accelerate a cleanup that the President sees as crucial for lasting police reform is meeting resistance from some governors, who argue that they don’t have the necessary resources or expertise.

According to a federal government report released in February only eight percent of state police officers had completed a vetting process. The report noted also that states collectively spend just two-thirds of their total security budget allocation.

Since that report there has been some progress. According to federal officials, just under 25 percent of state police have now been vetted. But they worry that vetting will not be completed by January 2013.

President Calderon’s latest push came at meeting in February in the state of Nuevo Leon, where he met governors drawn from the northeast of the country along with local and federal security officials. He argued that rebuilding the police and security institutions will be key in defeating organized crime.

According to Nuevo Leon state public security spokesman, Jorge Domene Zambrano, Calderon urged state officials to make greater progress on the implementation of reform. “The president emphasized the importance of lifting the pace and meeting the deadline,” he says.

President Calderon has been highly aggressive in pushing for reform of the federal, state and local police and while some progress has been made he has faced obstacles and setbacks with, among others problems, legislation becalmed in Congress.

Administration officials and police experts say the mixed record on the progress of reform reflects the difficulties in carrying out effective, lasting police change quickly on the scale Calderon wants. But supporters and critics alike acknowledge that the Calderon administration has laid down a long-term strategy for an effective policing operating within the confines of the law.

“Calderon’s government has made significant and necessary progress in the face of almost overwhelming challenges,” says Martin Edwin Andersen, an expert on Latin American policing and author of the book “The Police: Past, Present and Proposals for the Future.” But he notes there’s a long way to go. “Police forces around the country lack the professional skills needed to contain violence, collect useful intelligence and carry out meaningful investigations.”

Calderon’s reform efforts seek to address those deficiencies. But speaking at a conference at the London School of Economics last month, Mexico’s ambassador in the UK, Eduardo Medina Mora, warned that police reform would take longer than a presidency.

“It will take a generation because you cannot make the changes overnight, it will take time and resources,” he said. The ambassador, a former federal Secretary of Public Safety, added that more needs to be spent on law-enforcement, noting that Mexico spends far less compared to other countries in Latin America.

Under Calderon the money spent on the military, federal, state and municipal police as well as the federal court system has doubled since 2006. But corruption, abuse and ineffectiveness still plague Mexico’s various police departments, say experts such as Andersen.

The biggest progress has been made at the federal level both in terms of numbers and quality of policing. In 2006, there were six thousand federal police officers but now there are 36,000, although Medina Mora believes that number will need to be increased to 100,000, if the size of Mexico and its population is taken into account.

At the federal level as well as the Calderon administration has been highly proactive in combating corruption and poor performance.

In September 2010, the then Federal Police Commissioner Facundo Rosas, announced that a three-month probe had resulted in 3,200 Mexican federal police officers being fired for failing to do their work properly or being linked to corruption. Of those, 465 were charged with crimes. To help ensure dismissed officers don’t try to join state or municipal police departments, their names have been logged in a new computerized public safety database, called Platform Mexico, that can be consulted b police recruiters.

The probe was mounted to kick off new federal police standards, which took effect in May 2010. The new regimen involves officers and future recruits passing lie detector tests, completing financial disclosure statements and undergoing drug testing. The government has sought also to improve the caliber of the federal police by raising salaries and requiring recruits to have college degrees.

Marisela Morales, Mexico’s attorney general, also has kept the pressure up on her department since being appointed in April last year and has fired or investigated more than 700 employees in her short time in the job. She said in a statement in April “purging is fundamental within the Attorney General’s Office,” adding “the Mexico of today requires that those of us in public office act with total commitment and responsibility of service.”

But it has been at the state and municipal level that Calderon has found the going tougher. The President is eager to consolidate Mexico’s 2,400 municipal police departments and there 165,000 officers and to merge them with the 31 state police forces and the police department of the Federal District of Mexico.

The President and his officials argue that consolidating police at the state level will make it easier to oversee professionalization and vetting of officers as well as allowing the harmonization of standards, from operating procedures to recruitment procedures and training.

Further, consolidation would likely improve intelligence sharing.

This huge institutional reform which requires a constitutional amendment, however, has stalled in Congress. State governors support the idea of consolidation, but many mayors who would lose their police departments are opposed.

But not all. Some high-profile mayors and former mayors are supportive.

The former mayor of Ciudad Juarez, one of Mexico’s most dangerous cities, has backed Calderon’s proposal, arguing that municipal police on low wages in small towns are much more vulnerable to the offer of money or lead. 
”The more a police officer knows, the more he becomes known,” Jose Reyes Ferriz told the El Paso Times. “All this makes him more susceptible to criminals.”

While some state governments have been slow on implementing the vetting of state police officers, others are pushing hard on police reform.  Nuevo León is starting to introduce a change as ambitious as Calderon’s.

In May last year, state Governor Rodrigo Medina de la Cruz  announced the plan to fashion a new state police service called “Fuerza Civil” (Civil Force) that will replace all of Nuevo León’s 51 municipal police forces. The new planned department will have 14,000 new officers, almost double the current number of local police,  who will receive twice the current salary, be eligible for bonuses and benefits such as private health care and housing in guarded communities. The new officers will be trained at police academies in Escobedo and in Guadalupe.

Over five years the new force will cost a $1 billion. Hardly surprisingly, at his February meeting in the state Calderon took the opportunity to applaud Nuevo León on the plans for the Civil Force.

Osborne — the Master Strategist?

George Osborne – Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer – is meant to be a fine political strategist, the Conservative’s super-hero, all realist and machine politician. Conservative commentator Tim Montgomerie described him once as the coalition government’s “chief executive”, who not only is masterminding the coalition’s deficit and growth strategy but is overseeing the Conservative’s election strategy, he argued.

In an article in The Times, Montgomerie noted that sources had told him that at roundtable meetings involving senior Conservatives and Liberal Democrats heads rise and look to him” and not Prime Minister David Cameron “when anyone makes a controversial statement.”

Well, if Osborne is the man the Conservatives are relying on to maneuver them into a position to secure a majority at the next election, they may find they are banking on the wrong man.

In the past few weeks, he has managed to anger pensioners and the elderly with his so-called “granny tax” and provoke outrage with his proposal to cap how much money the rich can give to charity. It is to say the least pretty extraordinary to have united the charity world in one huge rebellion – and, of course, all those charities will grouse to all their donors about the meanness of the government. The cap would also seem to have undermined totally Cameron’s Big Idea of the “Great Society.”

As master strategist Osborne has been pushing recently a series of measures and airing proposals that seem to be anything but sure-footed and several seem designed to irritate the hell out of natural Conservative voters, an odd way of going about building an electoral majority.

Even small strategies aimed at wrong-footing the Labour Opposition have backfired – this week his wheeze of suggesting that all Cabinet ministers should reveal their tax details backfired when Labour endorsed the idea to the horror of many Conservative politicians and the Tory press.

As Graeme Archer noted in the Daily Telegraph, before long every candidate for public office will be pressured to disclose their tax arrangements. “No one who builds a business and arranges their tax accordingly will want to face the scrutiny of standing for public office, or the ordure entailed in making money and legally reducing the tax you pay on it,” he writes.

So when will Osborne start losing his reputation of being a master strategist?

 

P.S. Bob

My concern about Bob Diamond’s financial plight is growing. As you know, the CEO of Barclays needed the bank to cover his tax liability incurred when he was forced to relocate to London to take up his duties as chief executive.

Well, that’s not quite the spin the bank is using to explain why it paid the U.K. tax authorities £5.7m on Bob’s behalf. As I explained in the previous post, I am really worried about the tax advice Bob has been getting. That is, if we can trust everything we are being told by Barclays.

Pondering more on Bob’s remuneration package and how he’s being employed by Barclays, it has now dawned on me that Bob is alarmed also about how he’s going to make do when he’s retired and no longer a master of the universe.

How do I arrive at that assumption? According to Barclays they don’t actually employ Bob; he’s just assigned to the bank and is, in fact, employed by a Delaware-based company called Gracechurch Services Corporation, admittedly a subsidiary of the bank. Gracechurch is just lending Bob to Barclays, which is awfully good of them.

The Guardian noted that this assignment agreement “appears overly complicated” but Barclays told the newspaper that it employs a number of its bankers this way to allow them to keep continuity of U.S. benefits, particularly for healthcare.

And that’s when it became clear to me. Bob is concerned about his old age. Well, aren’t we all with the ending of final salary pensions and the financial crash ruining our stock portfolios.

So, as I read it, being employed by a U.S.-based company allows Bob to do a couple of things: 1. Continue paying into U.S. social security and securing a waiver in the U.K. on paying national insurance contributions; and 2. Maintaining his Medicare contributions so that it will be there for him when he retires.

It is nice to know that a master of the universe is hedging his bets, so to speak. No doubt the outcry over the pension given to disgraced banker Fred Goodwin, formerly a “Sir” and top dog at the Royal Bank of Scotland, gave Bob pause for thought and convinced him that he might not have the wherewithal to afford great private health insurance when he’s retired. Yes, better to make sure you will definitely get a full pension from the Feds, about $22,000 at the moment, and be eligible for Medicare.

But even here I am not sure Bob is getting good advice, that is, if Barclays is telling the truth. You see, Bob is almost certainly vested in Medicare already – you only have to work for about ten years in the U.S. to reach that status. And, any payments into the U.K. national insurance program could be counted in as U.S. social security contributions, if he were short of the necessary when it comes to his Fed pension.

Barclays mentioning of health care benefits could mean also that Bob was worried about breaking continuity when it comes to private medical cover. Here an explanation is needed for the Brits. In the U.S. you don’t want any break in private health coverage. If there is a break of more than 60 days, when you come to apply to a new insurer for coverage, then they can write out pre-exisiting conditions.

One key aspect of the Obama health care reform would, of course, change that by stopping health care insurers from rejecting an applicant because of pre-existing conditions or refusing to cover those conditions. That will come into effect in January 2014, if the Supreme Court doesn’t strike down the health care reform.

But again the advice to Bob was wrong. Barclays could have gone to a U.S. insurer to secure international coverage for Bob that wouldn’t have broken continuity of coverage. Cigna offers such a policy. Also, Barclays could have gone to BUPA or PPP in the U.K.. Several of their policies are recognized by U.S. insurers and would not have jeopardized coverage continuity in the U.S..

Now, of course, I am basing all of this on taking Barclays at face value. Maybe there is more here than meets the eye – as with Bob’s tax situation.

That aside, Bob has managed to get from me lots of counsel for nothing. And I am not going to ask Bob for a salary or a bonus. But I was wondering if he could pay my taxes for me. They will just be a tiny fraction of what Bob got from Barclays

Bob Diamond Should Phone My Tax Accountant

I am very worried for Barclays’ CEO Bob Diamond. I don’t think he’s securing the best tax advice that’s out there, and would like to recommend my own excellent tax adviser, the Alexandria, Virginia-based Braxton Moncure of Ross & Moncure, the accountant of choice of many journalists, foreign and otherwise, plying their trade in Washington DC.

From what I can see in the current brouhaha that’s erupted in London over Barclays helping Bob out by paying his U.S. taxes, he appears to be oblivious, as does Barclays for that matter, to the double tax agreement between the U.S. and the U.K. that protects anyone – peon like me to a master of the universe like Bob – from having to pay tax on both sides of the Atlantic on the same income.

For those of you who have not followed Diamondgate, let me briefly recap. This week, Barclays revealed that Bob had to make do in 2011 on a mere £17m in pay, shares and perks.

Of course, his compensation package underlined for many the scale of multimillion-pound pay deals still being handed out to top bankers.

But what has triggered even more fury is that Barclays paid £5.7m to cover Diamond’s U.S. tax bill. That disclosure came hot foot on the recent news that Barclays has been mired in a row with HM Revenue and Customs over a couple of tax avoidance schemes that were designed to save the bank about £500m.

The news of Bob’s nice tax perk prompted Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oakeshott to remark: “The only tax Barclays pays seems to be for Bob on his bonus.”

And some institutional shareholders – including Standard Life, Aviva and Scottish Widows – are threatening to vote against Diamond’s remuneration package at the bank’s annual general meeting later this month.

Their disapproval has mounted since the Association of British Insurers announced that the package possibly breaches corporate governance codes. The ABI is concerned about the scale of the remuneration package given that Diamond himself acknowledges the bank’s performance last year was “unacceptable”. In February, Barclays reported a three percent fall in profits. The Daily Mail has a nice little graph here showing how Bob has profited while the bank’s share price has tumbled.

And the association suspects that the decision by Barclays to pay UK tax authorities £5.7m on behalf of Diamond may fall foul of their guidelines that companies “should not seek to make changes to any element of executive remuneration to compensate participants for changes in their personal status.” Whether anything comes from shareholder ire, who knows. Last year, the ABI and some institutional shareholders protested at the remuneration packages of top Barclays executives but nothing much came of it.

Bob’s UK tax bill was incurred when he relocated from New York to London on his promotion to CEO in January 2011. The bank has an agreement with Bob to compensate him, if he has to pay tax on the same income twice — in the UK and US.

And this is where it gets all very odd. Why did Bob have to pay tax to both the US and UK on the same income? Since 1975 there has been a double tax agreement between the US and UK to prevent double taxation on income and capital gains. That agreement has been added to over the years and with big changes in 2001.

Presumably, using this treaty Bob did not have to pay any US federal income tax. And that may well have happened. But state taxes are not covered by the double-tax treaty.

Barclays has not been clear about what taxes Bob incurred that required him to pay tax twice on the same income, but it is likely that they were New York state and city taxes. The top New York state tax rate is 8.97% and the New York City rate is 12.62%. Capital gains and dividends are taxed as ordinary income. But long-term capital gains may be taxed differently.

But why was Bob paying these taxes? He relocated in January 2011 – U.S. tax years run in calendar years, unlike the UK, which runs April to April.

Under New York state regulations: An individual is a New York resident if one (1) of two (2) conditions is met: 1) If an individual is ‘domiciled’  in New York, such individual is a New York resident. And domicile is defined thus: “Domicile in general, is the place an individual intends to be his permanent home – the place to which he intends to return whenever he may be absent NYCRR 105.20(d).”

2) “If an individual is not ‘domiciled’ in New York, such individual is a New York resident if s/he both ‘maintains a permanent place of abode for substantially all of the taxable year’ and spends in the aggregate more than 183 days of the taxable year in New York. New York Tax Law § 605(b)(1)(B), New York City Admin Code Section 11-705(b)(1).”

So the questions start to multiply. Did Bob spend more than 183 days in 2011 in New York when he had officially relocated to London?

Why has Bob not made a declaration via an efficient accountant to the New York tax authorities that while he maintains a home in New York he doesn’t consider this to be his permanent home? Hence my urging that Bob speaks with my accountant, Braxton Moncure.

As Bob – a dual UK-US citizen – has not apparently, according to Barclays, claimed non-dom status in the UK, which he could easily do, it would be simple, as long as he is not spending more than 183 days a tax year in New York, to prove that he is no longer domiciled in the Big Apple.

So why hasn’t he done so? And whatever the reason, why should Barclays be paying up when Bob could easily get out of the tax liability? And should a man who can’t seem to navigate efficiently an easy international tax thicket be the CEO of Barclays anyway? Or is there more than meets the eye here?

Phone Braxton, Bob!

 

 

Banking Regulations: Too Costly Or Needed To Curb Reckless Behavior?

Bankers are claiming on both sides of the Atlantic that post-financial crisis regulations are far too complex and costly. Are they right? Or are the new regulations needed to stop a repeat of the 2008 crash? I consider those questions in the Daily Mail.

We Women Warriors

We Women Warriors

I received this today from independent journalist Nicole Karsin, who has done some fine work on human rights in Colombia.

“I would like to reach out in light of the upcoming Summit of the Americas (April 14-15), to put the spotlight on an important documentary film project, scheduled to premiere this summer.

We Women Warriors follows the lives of three native women leaders caught in the crossfire of Colombia’s warfare, who use nonviolent resistance to defend their people’s survival.

The film makes an excellent talking point given the President’s first visit to Colombia this week. Filmmaker Nicole Karsin will be actively speaking on issues addressed in the film and advocating participation in the National Day of Action for Colombia organized by a coalition of NGOs working to secure justice in Colombia.

The U.S. has given more than $8 billion in military aid to Colombia since 2000. In that time, some 30,000 civilians have been killed. With more than five million displaced, Colombia stands just behind Sudan as the world’s second worst internal displacement crisis in the world.

As a U.S. correspondent based in Colombia for seven years, Nicole reported on human rights issues in remote villages, and witnessed the conflict in Colombia firsthand. She also directly experienced the loss of friends to violence that erupted, and has since dedicated herself as a filmmaker to share this story.

We Women Warriors, now six years in the making, gives voice to the lives of women whose lives and communities are still imperiled by Colombia’s complicated drug war. We have 39 days to raise completion funds through Kickstarter, and we are mobilizing friends, colleagues and new supporters to join us to help bring this film to the public.

Please be in touch to get the conversation started. There are multiple ways to participate through Facebook, Twitter.”

 

El Chapo Pilot Arrested in Santo Domingo

Further evidence that the Sinaloa cartel is highly active in the Dominican Republic came this week with the arrest of one of Joaquin “Chapo” Guzmán’s pilots. He was seized in a Santo Domingo hotel along with another alleged member of the Sinaloa cartel, bringing to 10 the number of Mexican traffickers who’ve been detained and expelled subsequently from the country in the last 14 months.

The pilot and his companion are being extradited to the United States, according to local news sources. Listin newspaper identified them only by their last names Chavez Ramirez and Alvarado Torres.

A full background on the Mexican expansion to the Dominican Republic can be found in my recent articles for Agora and Dialogo magazines. And also here on this blog.

 

 

 

 

 

Independents Like Obama But Favor Opportunity Over Fairness

Independents are likely to be crucial in deciding whether Barack Obama secures a second term in the White House or whether his likely GOP challenger Mitt Romney ousts him. A new poll released today and conducted for the moderate Democratic Third Way think tank suggests that Obama is sitting pretty when it comes to independents in battleground states. Fifty-seven percent of swing independents view the President favorably compared to 41 percent being inclined to Romney.

Further good news for the Democrats comes when the pollsters drill down on the economy. The two parties are in a statistical tie when it comes to whom independents trust to manage the economy; and on taxes, traditionally a GOP strength, Obama has a six point lead over the Republcians.

But the President’s support is soft. A key finding generally is that swing independents are concerned with opportunity more than fairness. According to Third Way co-founder Jim Kessler, “What they’re really worried about is the country slipping. They’re not sure their family is going to reach the heights they expected. They’re relatively sure China will have the world’s leading economy in 15 years. They’re looking for someone to answer that.”

And the President doesn’t so that when he stresses fairness more than opportunity. It is something the Republican group Amrerican Crossroads has picked up on. It plans to launch an ad blitz  and according to one of the organization’s strategists, Steven Law, the spots will go softly on the President to avoid offending independents with too much negativity but will question whether Obama is up to the job of fixing America.