Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tucson Aftermath, Part 5: Lesson to learn

In the rush to find a simple answer for the cause of this violence, in the rush to point fingers at someone or something, most people seem to have ignored the two major factors in the Tucson tragedy. First, that Jared Lee Loughner is mentally ill, and second, that he was easily, legally able to get a hold of a gun and carry that gun concealed.

And not just any gun. The handgun used by Jared Lee Loughner to shoot 19 people, killing 6 of them, was a Glock 19 9mm handgun equipped with an extended magazine capable of holding 34 bullets and fired-till-empty in less than 10 seconds. This weapon, specifically the extended magazine, was illegal up until 2004 when the Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired under the Bush administration. Despite favoring the ban on assault weapons, then President Bush and current President Obama face opposition from a Congress heavily influenced by the NRA gun lobby.

The NRA has successfully planted the myth into the minds of loyal gun enthusiasts that the 'liberals want to take your guns away.' After the election of the nation's first African-American president in 2008, the Right first went into a panic and then went gun shopping.

Since the shooting in Tucson, America's gun-lust has taken another sick twist with the report that gun sales have suddenly increased. According to Arizona gun store owner Greg Wolff, the $500 Glock handguns, like the one used by Jared Lee Loughner, have been flying off the shelves. "We're at double our volume over what we usually do," said Wolff, two days after the shooting.

Data complied by the FBI reports that one-day sales of handguns in Arizona jumped 60 percent; while in Ohio, one-day sales was highest at 65 percent, contributing to a national overall 5 percent increase in handgun sales.

The debate over the tone of politics in America is an important one and one that must continue. But while hateful, ugly rhetoric and ideology of revolution, racism, and pro-gun talk from the Right has influenced some to carry out acts of violence in the past and may likely in the future, in this case there is so far no evidence that politics or hate speech played any part in motivating Jared Lee Loughner to shoot 19 people on that Saturday in Tucson.

As Zach Osler, a friend of Loughner, told ABC's Good Morning America, Loughner "did not watch TV. He disliked the news. He didn’t listen to political radio. He didn’t take sides. He wasn’t on the left. He wasn’t on the right."

In the end, the tragedy in Tucson was not caused by Right-wing talk. It was not caused by heavy metal music or marijuana. The murder of 6 people, including 9 year-old Christina Taylor Green, and wounding of 13 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was caused by a gun in the hands of a mad man.

There was a massive systemic failure in keeping Loughner from purchasing that weapon. Because Loughner's arrest for drug paraphernalia did not carry a criminal conviction and because he was never officially diagnosed with an mental illness, Loughner passed the background check required to buy his handgun. Lawmakers must seriously now consider reforms and new legislation that will keep criminals and the mentally incompetent from owning firearms.

Furthermore, the state of the health care system in America needs reform. Mental health is just as important as physical health, but unfortunately, millions of Americans have access to neither, and for those who do, often find that their mental health services are inadequate.
In the rush to meet budgets, many states have cut important funding to health services including mental health services. In Arizona alone, funding for mental health services has been slashed by $36 million - a 37 percent cut from the previous year.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act put into law last year to go into effect over the next four years, and the law that Republicans are currently trying to repeal, goes a long way to improve care for Americans, but it needs to go further.

According to data from the National Institute of Mental Health cited in Reuters, "20 percent of U.S. youths are affected at some point in their lives by serious mental disorders, but only 36 percent of mentally troubled youth get professional services, and 60 percent of them are treated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder." If proper, adequate mental health care was available in this country, it is reasonable to believe that Loughner would have undergone psychological evaluation and deemed unfit to possess a firearm.

Finally, America needs 21th century gun laws. It is simply offensive for civilized society to allow anyone, sane or insane, a tool specifically designed and manufactured to kill another human being, let alone, multiple human beings. For anyone to argue that the right of individuals to own and carry such instruments of mass destruction should be protected under a law written two hundred years ago in the days of muskets is patently absurd.

Laws serve and protect us well provided that the people understand, as the Founding Fathers understood, that they are amendable, capable of maintaining relevancy and strength by changing as society changes. The right to keep and bear arms as necessary for a well regulated Militia, as written in the Second Amendment, has recently been interpreted by the Conservative majority in the Supreme Court as simply the right for everyone, barring criminals and the incompetent, to keep and bear arms - ignoring the Founding Fathers intent that there be a Military to protect the nation. Favoring a civilian militia over standing armies, and not anticipating the state of the U.S. Military today, the Framers of the Constitution believed arms at the disposal of men would be prudent should they be required to organize and defend the nation from an outside threat.

Understandably, then, given the recent rebellion against imperial Britain, those suspicious of government took the Second Amendment to mean a security against tyranny. However, given two hundred years of democratic law, the implementation and development of the military, police and law enforcement, and the state militia developing into the National Guard, it remains to be seen if high-powered firearms in the hands of bush-league civilians remains necessary for the defense of the nation or becomes a threat to its preservation.

Right-wing militias and Second Amendment fetishists may fantasize about arming themselves against a 'tyrannical government,' but this being a constitutional representative democracy, America is governed by ballots, not bullets; laws, not the tyranny of men. It is delusional to believe first, that our government is any more a tyranny headed by Barack Obama than George W. Bush, and second, that treasonous extremists armed with gun-show weapons can match the firepower of the U.S. military.

But all this should be discussed now. Now is the opportunity to talk about our future; a future where we should not have to worry about more Jared Lee Loughner's. A future where we treat one another with civility, respect and decency.

The reality of gun violence in America was thrown in our faces on that day in Tucson, yet, sadly, there will be those who refuse to see it. The reality of a suffering health care system was exposed then too, but again, there will be those who will choose to ignore it. And even if our noses are rubbed in our own callous, hateful, insensitive bickering and political mud-slinging, there will be those who will refuse to heed the warning of what might come, that another like Loughner, with a deeper, twisted sense of purpose, chooses to vote with bullets.

There will be those who will claim that Tucson was an isolated incident. They will assert that the person who pulled the trigger is the sole person to blame. They will continue to go on as if nothing ever happened and they will reject any appeal to change the sorry situation of what is and has been - Politics is brutal. And America prides itself over citizens having better access to guns than to health care.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tucson Aftermath, Part 4: The man holding the gun

As the national conversation over the tone of contentious political rhetoric continues in the days following the attempted assassination of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, new details about the shooter have emerged.

The shooter, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner from Tucson, was initially believed to have been inspired to carry out the attack by inflammatory Right-wing rhetoric that has targeted Representative Giffords in recent years. As Loughner refused to speak to police investigators, new information revealed by the media in the hours and days following the tragic shooting in Arizona have raised more questions than provided answers.

On his Myspace webpage, Loughner had posted, "Goodbye" on the morning of the shooting. "Dear friends," he wrote, "please don't be mad at me." Among photos on his webpage were earlier pictures of Loughner, smiling during happier times, and one of the handgun used in the attack on top of a book entitled, United States History.

It was reported that Jared Lee Loughner had a history of disturbing anti-social behavior and that he had shown signs of possible paranoid schizophrenia. It is believed that Loughner's mental illness may have presented itself while he was attending Pima Community College in 2010. According to former teachers and classmates, Loughner was prone to outbursts of irrational, nonsensical comments and frequently exhibited confusion and disorganized speech. One student recalled how she was scared of Loughner and described him as the type that would bring a gun to class.

According to Pima Community College, Loughner was suspended for disruptive behavior. Before he could be readmitted, college officials demanded that Loughner submit to an mental health evaluation. Loughner refused and never returned.

On his Myspace page, Loughner wrote about his obsession with 'lucid' or 'conscious dreaming': the state of being aware of one's dreaming and controlling the outcome of the dream. A concept played out in the film, "Inception," Loughner may have believed he could live in a dream world.

Loughner also posted various delusional, anti-government messages. In sentiment popular among fringe groups, Loughner's distrust of government included his rejection of U.S. currency because it is not backed by gold or silver, his belief that schools and police were "unconstitutional," and his belief that the government was "implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar."

Loughner laid out his rambling incoherent thoughts in a series of videos posted on Youtube. In the last video posted Loughner writes, "Every human who is mentally capable is always able to be treasurer of their new currency." "You don't allow the government to control your grammer structure, listener?" "If you call me a terrorist then the argument to call me a terrorist is ad hominem. You call me a terrorist. Thus, the argument is ad hominem."

It was also reported that Jared Lee Loughner had a history of drug and alcohol abuse. At the age of 15, Loughner was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning. In 2008, Loughner was denied entrance into the U.S. Army for admitting to drug use, and in 2007 he had been arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia.

According to those who knew him, Loughner had habitually used marijuana and listened to heavy metal music. When asked to describe Loughner, one former classmate said that when she knew him in 2007, she thought he was "left-wing" and "liberal."

Following the tragedy in Tucson, the Republican party and Tea Party fell under heavy criticism for its use of gun metaphors and calls to revolution including that of Representative Giffords' recent challenger, Republican Jesse Kelly, who hosted a fund raiser inviting donors to come shoot an M-16 with him and said, "If you dare to stand up to the government they call us a mob. We're about to show them what a mob looks like," as well as former Governor Sarah Palin's use of the phrase "Don't Retreat, Reload" and posting Rep. Giffords' district on a map of the U.S. in "crosshairs."

The Right, facing pressure to repudiate and abandon their use of violent rhetoric and imagery, took the news of Loughner's drug use and supposed political leanings as an opportunity to change the debate over reckless rhetoric in politics and instead lay blame for the shooting on the Left.

Though Jared Lee Loughner's anti-government beliefs during the Bush administration do not make him any more 'liberal' than his anti-government beliefs during the Obama administration make him 'conservative,' the Right continued to point to cherry-picked, ambiguous information as evidence that Loughner was a 'leftist,' not incited to violence by right-wing rhetoric popular with Tea Party Republicans, thereby absolving the Right from any culpability for the shooting in Tucson and any responsibility to change their divisive language and behavior.

Right-wing bloggers then pounced on the report that among Loughner's list of favorite books posted on his Myspace and Youtube pages were Marx and Engels' The Communist Manifesto and Hitler's Mein Kampf.  All of this tenuous information from the internet was offered up by those on the Right including Tea Party Nation founder, Judson Phillips, and North Carolina's Rep. Virginia Foxx as 'proof' that Loughner was a "Liberal" as if never were there Conservatives that smoked pot, listened to heavy metal music, or read books that presented political points of view that were the polar opposites of each other or didn't espouse their own personal beliefs.

Again, the Right made the ridiculously unsubstantiated claim that Liberals are contrarily both Communists and Nazis, two factions that oppose each other, and Conservative pundits and writers fell back on stereotypes and generalizations that Liberals were the headbanging drug users of society. The Left could have easily as well used the stereotype that Liberals 'hate guns' and since Loughner used a gun to kill people, he must have been a Conservative, but these claims would be and are all nonsense.

For the record, other books listed in Loughner's favorites include Ayn Rand's We, the Living and George Orwell's Animal Farm - anti-communist works - and other assigned school reading that can't really be judged as holding any connected political or philosophical ideology. To Kill A Mockingbird, Old Man and the Sea, Gulliver's Travels, Phantom Toll Booth, The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Looking Glass, Fahrenheit 451, Siddhartha, The Odyssey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and so on.

During a search of Loughner's home, FBI investigators found a safe containing an envelope with the words, "I planned ahead," "Giffords," and "My assassination" next to Loughner's signature along with a letter addressed to Loughner from Rep. Giffords' office thanking him for attending a "Congress On Your Corner" event, the same type of event Rep. Giffords was holding on the day of the shooting.

Loughner had met Rep. Giffords at an event hosted by the Congresswoman in 2007. According to peers, Loughner was angry with Rep. Giffords for failing to satisfactorily answer a question he posed to her. Loughner reportedly asked Rep. Giffords, "What is government if words have no meaning?" Giffords, likely not knowing how to respond to the bizarre question, apparently infuriated Loughner who later derided her as "unintelligent," "stupid," and "fake."

(Read Part 5 here)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tucson Aftermath, Part 3: Reckless Rhetoric

At a press conference held in Tucson on the night of the shooting that left Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords critically injured along with a dozen others wounded and 6 dead, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik took the opportunity to address the heated political rhetoric coming from the media that could possibly provoke some to this type violence.

"When you look at unbalanced people," said the sheriff, "how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

In politics as usual, both the Left and the Right attempted to blame the other for what led to the shooting in Tucson. Though they made a point to say that there was no evidence that such incendiary talk directly influenced the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, in this incidence, many on the Left blamed the divisive and hateful rhetoric pouring out from the Right since the 2008 campaign and throughout the Health Care debate for creating a dangerous political climate that could lead to violence like that in Arizona.

Such examples of ugly, irresponsible rhetoric have come from Republican politicians such as Sarah Palin with her description of Health Care Reform as "Death Panels," Congresswoman Michele Bachmann who wanted Minnesotans "Armed and dangerous," Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle who called for "Second Amendment remedies," and Congressional candidate from Texas, Pastor Stephen Broden, who said that the option for the violent overthrow of the government was "on the table," among many others on the Right.

Conservative media figures were also criticized for their part in fanning the flames of hateful or violent sentiment; among others Glenn Beck, Joyce Kaufman, Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh, who with a long history of racist and inflammatory commentary once said, "I tell people don't kill all liberals; leave enough so we can have two on every campus - living fossils - so we will never forget what these people stood for."
After the shooting in Tucson, there were calls from politicians and those in the media to pay attention to the tone of political rhetoric. Host of MSNBC's Countdown, Keith Olbermann commented on the night of the shooting saying:

"Left, right, middle - politicians and citizens - sane and insane. This morning in Arizona, this age in which this country would accept targeting of political opponents and putting bull's-eyes over their faces and of the dangerous blurring between political rallies and gun shows, ended... Violence, or the threat of violence, has no place in our Democracy, and I apologize for and repudiate any act or any thing in my past that may have even inadvertently encouraged violence. Because for whatever else each of us may be, we all are Americans."

Olbermann also encouraged his counterparts on Fox News to repudiate their own reckless words and actions. 

Fox News CEO, Roger Ailes, said after shooting that he instructed his employees at his rightwing media outlet, including Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and Sarah Palin, to "tone it down," in regards to the extreme rhetoric that he believes comes from "both sides" of the political divide. 

The toning down of the rhetoric, however, did not last long.
The Right  - those previously mentioned and others in the conservative Tea Party/ Republican spectrum of politics were quick to be defensive about the comments from Sheriff Dupnik and various voices in the media and from the Left for the Right to look inward and change their behavior.

On the Monday following the shooting, Bill O'Reilly took to The O'Reilly Factor On Fox News to comment on the tragedy. Reading dismissively from the teleprompter, devoid of any emotion, O'Reilly spoke of the shooting and its victims. Then after speaking of Loughner, whom he called "a psychopath," O'Reilly erupted in anger for what he called the Left's "exploitation of the murders by political zealots."

"The merchants of hate should be held accountable," said O'Reilly, blaming the Left, the media, and everyone else except the hate merchants such as himself on the Right. O'Reilly went on to attack what he called the "far-left newspaper," The New York Times for publishing an editorial that he found objectionable:

"It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members," acknowledges the Times. "But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge. Many on the right have exploited the arguments of division, reaping political power by demonizing immigrants, or welfare recipients, or bureaucrats. They seem to have persuaded many Americans that the government is not just misguided, but the enemy of the people."

"That is flat-out reprehensible," said O'Reilly in regards to The Times' valid point. "And every American should condemn that New York Times editorial." O'Reilly also attacked a similar condemnation of hateful rhetoric by the National Organization for Women.

O'Reilly continued his rant to condemn MSNBC to which he ironically said: "The hatred spewed on that cable network is unprecedented in the media." He then went on to defend Sarah Palin's indefensible behavior and finally concluded his bout of rage by claiming that he is a victim of left-wing hate. "Far-left loons have attacked me in vile ways for years," he said. "I have to have security around the clock. Has the New York Times ever said a word about that?"

(Read Part 4 here)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tucson Aftermath, Part 2: Words have consequences

Before the shooting last Saturday in Tucson, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had been one of a number of Democrats who had received threats in the recent year. During the contentious debates over Health Care Reform and Cap and Trade legislation that saw angry, confrontational protests in town hall meetings and surrounding the offices of House and Senate members, many Democrats had been the target of threatening letters, internet, and phone messages.

As a crowd of Health Care reform protestors descended upon the Capital building in Washington, it is reported that angry Tea Party members had shouted the word "nigger" at the Democratic Congressman from Georgia and 'hero of the civil rights movement,' John Lewis; while Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts faced protesters who shouted "faggot," and Democratic Congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri was spat on.

Last March, it had been reported that just hours after the vote on Health Care Reform the glass front door and side windows of Rep. Giffords congressional office in Arizona had been either smashed or shot out. The next day, Rep. Giffords was listed as one of twenty Democrats posted on Tea Party Republican Sarah Palin's Facebook page in a picture depicting crosshairs over a map of the U.S. targeting Democratic controlled districts with the words, "IT'S TIME TO TAKE A STAND."

Sarah Palin, the resigned Alaskan Governor and former Vice-Presidential running mate of Arizona Senator John McCain, is a known hunter who has often used gun terminology in her speeches to fire up her pro-gun followers. In directing her Twitter followers to her Facebook page, former Governor Palin announced "Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: 'Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!'"

While this may not be a direct call to violence, Joan Walsh of said it best: "[I]n a country where angry right-wingers carry guns to see the president speak, and spit on African-American congressmen, I thought it was a chilling statement."

Rep. Giffords went on MSNBC later that month to discuss the vitriol and threats. "We can't stand for this, she said. "We need to realize that the rhetoric, and the firing people up and ... for example, we're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the thing is, the way she has it depicted, we're in the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they've got to realize that there are consequences to that action."

In August, police were called after a gun was dropped at an event where Rep. Giffords was speaking. It was later reported that the owner of that gun had dropped it accidentally as he carried it; which in Arizona it is legal to carry a concealed gun without a permit, and no charges were filed.

Undeterred by the protests and threats from the Tea Party and others in the right-wing, the Congresswoman continued to meet with those in her district and take strong, though not always popular stands on legislation in Washington.

After the shooting, as Congresswoman Giffords was rushed to the Hospital, the New York Post asked her father, Spencer Giffords, if his daughter had any enemies. Jumping to the same conclusion as most who pay attention to politics he said, "Yeah, the whole Tea Party."

(Read Part 3 here)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tucson Aftermath, Part 1: Shock, but hardly a surprise

Last Saturday's attempted assassination of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords left her along with a dozen others injured and 6 dead including Federal District Judge John Roll and Christina Taylor Green, a nine-year-old who, as fate would have it, was born on September 11, 2001. The shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, a 22-year-old with a history of mental illness, is in police custody.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat elected to her third-term in the conservative 8th district of Arizona, was gathering at what she called, "Congress On Your Corner," a frequent event where she would meet with her constituents. The event on Saturday January 8th was being held outside a Safeway grocery store. Just minutes before the shooting, Rep. Giffords had sent a Twitter message telling people to come by the event.

According to witnesses, a lone gunman fired off over 30 rounds before being wrestled to the ground as he attempted to reload his Glock 9mm handgun equipped with an extended magazine. A 61 year-old woman by the name of Patricia Maisch reportedly grabbed a new full magazine out of the hands of the shooter as he tried to reload his pistol. Several others including Bill Badger, Roger Sulzgeber, and Joseph Zamudio subdued the shooter until police arrived.

Daniel Hernandez Jr., a 20 year-old intern in Rep. Giffords office, ran to Giffords and the other victims on the ground. It is reported that he checked the wounded and then held Rep. Giffords, attempting to slow the bleeding, before Paramedics arrived.

Immediate reports of the tragedy in Tucson were chaotic and confusing. Numerous media outlets had initially reported that Congresswoman Giffords had been killed in the shooting and speculation as to the motivation of the shooter quickly led to a heated political argument that began in blogs and news and social websites that continued to the mainstream media.

When news first came across last Saturday that a Democratic Congresswoman had been shot in Arizona, rightly or wrongly, those who are involved in politics, or simply follow it closely enough, had a deep sense that the violence in Tucson was the likely outcome of an ugly, bitter, and hostile political environment that has been building over these past couple of years.

For many, the news came as a shock, but hardly a surprise.

(Read Part 2 here)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

This year Republicans promise to undo all the progress made last year

This year will be President Obama's third year in office. After two years of fighting an uphill battle while Republicans threw anything and everything they could think of or make up at him and a select few Democrats stabbed him in the back, the president will return to the White House after a well deserved and much needed break over Christmas to face the difficult challenges facing this nation.

While most expect partisan gridlock this year as President Obama and Democrats face greater opposition from a Republican controlled House of Representatives and larger minority of Republicans in the Senate, the president is as usual attempting to bridge the divide between the parties to focus on real ways to help the American people.

After a year of scoring major, meaningful legislative victories that benefit Americans: the ratification of the new START treaty, repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' a bill overhauling the system to ensure food safety, Wall Street regulation, credit card regulation, a bill providing medical care and reimbursement for 9/11 responders, a bill providing free or reduced-price meals to 31 million children from low-income households and help tackle the problem of childhood obesity, expansion for federal aid for college students, and the extension of tax cuts and unemployment benefits, among others, President Obama last year also claimed victory in the appointment of his second supreme court justice nominee in two years in Justice Elena Kagan, as well as the end to combat operations in Iraq and withdrawal of all but 50,000 troops with the plan to remove the last troops by the end of this year.

But perhaps the most important accomplishment for President Obama and the Congressional Democrats in 2010, and a prime example of what they have done to help Americans, is their passing of landmark health care reform legislation designed to be rolled out over the course of the next few years. In 2010, some provisions of health care reform went into effect including the prohibiting of health insurers from denying children with 'pre-existing conditions' or imposing lifetime caps on coverage, as well as requiring health insurers to allow children to stay on their parents policies until the age of 26. In 2011, several more provisions of the health care reform law go into effect including expanded benefits to seniors on Medicare and the Medicare part D prescription drug plan and the requiring of health insurers to spend 80 to 85 percent of premium dollars on medical care and quality improvement or to provide rebates to customers.

Republicans, however, are vowing to strip Americans of these health care measures by repealing reform legislation. Apparently, they want to take money away from seniors paying for prescription medicine, allow insurers to deny coverage for sick children, and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, add $140 billion dollars over ten years to the deficit.
As usual, Republican politicians, pundits, and strategists will all posture and threaten to repeal the health care reform law and they might, but only in the Republican controlled House of Representatives. Even in the unlikely event of the Senate repealing the law, the power of the veto lies with President Obama so the law will stand unless it manages to get to the Supreme Court years from now where, even with a conservative majority, it is expected to be withheld. Several Republican state attorney generals have filed lawsuits against the government over health care reform, and three federal judges have so far ruled on it: two judges have ruled to uphold the law and one judge with ties to Republican and anti-health care reform campaigns has ruled against it.
While Republicans in both the House and the Senate this year plan on trying to repeal health care reform, undo every law and regulation and cut funding for every program passed by Democrats, threaten a government shutdown, attempt to rewrite the Constitution, dismantle Social Security, and conduct a baseless witch-hunt of the Obama administration - all of which are simply theater as they prepare for the 2012 elections, where will Republicans find the time to work on things that will create jobs, strengthen the economy, or pay down the national debt?

Looks like the new year will be much like the last year. President Obama and Congressional Democrats will continue to push social and economic reform and Republicans will continue to stand in the way.