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was thinking I could buy the losers back just after the first of the year

Avoiding a wash sale requires staying out of a stock for 30 days after the sale date. "After the first of year" isn't specific.

Are the gains realized or not?

If the gains aren't realized and you are going to use the losses to offset gains, then it doesn't matter if you sell now or later. If you are dumping losers, $3,000 of the loss can be applied towards your regular income, and the rest of the loss carried forward.

My crystal ball is fuzzy. If the gains are realized, then using the losses guarantees a tax reduction for 2012. Taxes will probably be higher after 2012, but who knows exactly what the future holds.
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