Author Archive: Dennis Shulman

My Thoughts: Twelve Days Later

This was a remarkable year.

A year that was peopled by thousands.

A year that found me:

In countless county and neighborhood fairs;

In Capitol Hill offices and parties;

At high school football games;

Marching in parades on Memorial Day, July Fourth, and Halloween, surrounded by enthusiastic supporters and some not-so-well-wishers;

On the pages of the New York Times and the New Yorker, on Blue Jersey, the Huffington Post, and the Daily Kos;

In campaign caravans rushing from Alpine to Phillipsburg;

In a union hall speaking to a hundred or so sheet metal apprentices, after investing five years of their life mastering their trade, unsure now if there will be work when they graduate;

In spacious living rooms, sipping champagne and munching hors d’oeuvres with governors and senators;

In Ringwood, touring a desolate track of land poisoned by Ford, surrounded by the Ramapo Mountain Indians who were this land’s owners, its victims, its defenders.

This was truly a remarkable year.

And what I heard wherever I traveled this year was that people, whether affluent or impoverished, young or the retired, Republican or Democrat, were worried — worried about their children, worried about their future, worried about our country.

Political campaigns these days have a way, too often, of getting lost in the contest between the two individuals vying for the seat. They become something closer to a food fight than a comparison of ideas and issues and alternative visions for America’

s future. They become a competition about “Gotcha,” and in the process the more personal accusations drown out the political differences that really do matter. There are many reasons why this happens in this political climate, many reasons why this happened in the congressional race between Scott Garrett and myself, but that analysis is for another time and another place.

This race for the United States House of Representatives in NJ-5 should not have been about Scott Garrett or Dennis Shulman. It should have been about the contrasting political ideology and moral vision of the opponents. It should have been about the future of America. It should have been about the soul of our country and of our district.

It should have been about global warming and alternatives to oil and gas — whether we should support increases in fuel efficiency and investment in wind, solar, and bio fuels.

It should have been about stem cell research — whether we should provide the scientific community an incentive and the freedom to do the research here in the United States that could offer hope and cure for people with Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s, and spinal cord injuries.

It should have been about taxes — whether any representative who voted for a war that is costing us ten billion dollars a month, who voted against the Alternative Minimum Tax every time it came to the House floor, and voted for every one of the Bush budgets could honestly claim to be a fiscal conservative and a tax cutter.

It should have been about healthcare  for children — whether there was any moral justification for a congressman or congresswoman who makes more than 165 thousand dollars a year accepting a premium healthcare plan paid fully by federal funds for his or her family, but votes to deny healthcare to a family of four who makes twenty-five thousand dollars a year living in Dumont or Cresskill or Newton.

It should have been about reproductive choice — whether the people in this district agree with the incumbent that abortions should be illegal even when the pregnant woman was a victim of rape or of incest.

It should have been about our sacred responsibility to our young men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan — whether we should support any congressman or congresswoman who would vote against medical benefits and other needed services for our disabled vets, and against tuition and housing benefits for those who returned to us able bodied.

Instead, sadly, incredibly, ridiculously, our election was about whether I was patriotic enough or in league with terrorists, and whether Scott Garrett had a farm or just a tax dodge.

Would the results on November 4th have been different if this election were about the comparative moral vision and political sensibilities of the candidates? I don’t know.

But what I do know from this extraordinary year of my life is that everyone I met, irrespective of where they lived in the district and where they sat on the political spectrum, believed that the past eight years have been disastrous years — that these have been years when our great and beloved nation has lost its way, and that we, as a nation, are certainly better than this.

Although I will not be taking a seat in Congress in January, I am hopeful about our country. I am hopeful that, with a new president and with Scott Garrett’s positions becoming even more marginalized in the House, that our country will again find its way.

To all, in this past year, whom I have touched, and who have touched me:

Thank you.

When Ideology Trumps Health…

Promoted from the diaries…Thurman

This past Friday’s Times featured an op-ed by Hillary Clinton and Cecile Richards highlighting the Bush administration’s newest ridiculous proposal: a rule that would require that any federally-funded health care entity certify that none of its employees are required to assist in any way with medical services they find objectionable.  With over 60,000 health care facilities potentially affected, patients across the nation can – and will – be refused access to a number of critical services should this become law.  

There is, of course, the obvious: emergency contraception, birth control pills, abortions even in the case of rape or incest.  But the proposal, which will cost taxpayers $44.5 million a year, extends much further, as providers are also allowed to refuse to participate in unspecified “other medical procedures” that they may find objectionable.  Clinton and Richards rightly bring up the point that this opens the door for health care professionals to deny service in a variety of frightening cases:  

Garrett Stays Silent While Constituents Sink (Literally)

Cross-posted on Daily Kos

Back in May, I discussed meeting the Ramapough Mountain Indians. The Ramapough must live with the legacy of two decades of toxic waste dumped on their land, and meeting them strengthened my desire to run for Congress in a profound way. That’s why I’m running for Congress to represent the people of North Jersey who currently do not have a voice in Washington.

Now, I’m posting today because the Ramapough Indians and their neighbors in Ringwood face yet more environmental challenges. Near the Ford Superfund site, the source of the toxic waste dumps, are neighborhoods build on a network of abandoned mines. And those neighborhoods are sinking.



Explains the Bergen Record: “In recent years, two homes have been evacuated, one huge sinkhole has opened in a back yard of a house that is still occupied, and part of a street was lost to a sinkhole.”

Although these sinkholes began appearing three years ago, little has been done about them. The street site was repaired, but the other sites cannot get money from the state because they are on private property. Moreover, two evacuated families still have no permanent homes. And although the sinkholes first appeared while Ford was excavating “tons of toxic waste sludge,” the company refuses to accept any responsibility for them.

Our troops protect us… does Garrett protect them?

(promoted by Scott Weingart)

We can never adequately express our gratitude for the sacrifices that the members of our armed forces make everyday to ensure that we enjoy all of our freedoms as Americans. Not only do our servicemen and women risk life and limb to defend these freedoms, but they also spend months and sometimes years stationed thousands of miles away from their families and loved ones.

In a recent newsletter, Scott Garrett had the gall to claim that he has worked for our veterans and their families while representing them in Congress.  However, his record demonstrates quite the opposite, as he has consistently failed to support America?s veterans in his votes.  

Most recently, Garrett voted against the 2008 GI Bill, which overwhelmingly passed Congress and will greatly improve the educational opportunities available to our veterans.  Garrett also refused to support legislation like the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2007 (H.R. 2764), which ensures that veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will receive the quality health care they deserve.  Furthermore, he opposed expanding access to the military?s TRICARE health insurance program to thousands of Reservists and National Guard members, even though 40% of Reservists aged 19 to 35 lack health coverage (H.R. 1815).  

Garrett has consistently earned appalling ratings from a number of veterans? organizations, including a C- from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a 36% from The Retired Enlisted Association in 2006, and a 0% from the Disabled American Veterans in 2005.  NJ-05 deserves a representative who will not only support our troops in word, but also in deed.

Unlike Garrett, I will work to ensure that our heroes in the armed forces will be able to return home safely and enjoy all of the freedoms that they have sacrificed so much to protect.  This includes supporting legislation like the GI Bill, as well as the Assured Funding for Veterans Health Care Act (H.R. 2514) and the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act (H.R. 5740).  These bills will guarantee that veterans are given the benefits they need and deserve.  

As a member of Congress, I will never stop fighting to make sure we fulfill our obligations to those who have served our country.  From improving health care and educational opportunities for veterans, to treating our troops with respect by rapidly and responsibly withdrawing from Iraq, I will work to ensure that the men and women of the armed forces are fully appreciated and supported.  

The Ramapough Reinforce My Decision to Run for Congress

When I first decided to run for the Congressional seat in New Jersey’s Fifth District, I did it because I knew that I wanted to be a voice for the families of North Jersey who have not had a voice in Washington the past five years.

Tuesday night, I met with leaders of the Ramapough Mountain Indians, whose land was used as a dumping ground for industrial waste for nearly two decades, and are now left to deal with the after-effects of an industry which has since pulled its jobs, and the wealth that came with it, out of the community.

Some of the excruciating details of their plight can be found at this invaluable website, http://toxiclegacy.com/ .  

Thoughts Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Promoted from the diaries — Juan

I was seventeen years old when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. April 4, 1968 is one of those too-many days from that period that are seared into my memory.

As a young man, I of course knew what King had done to help our country restore its soul and to move us closer to reaching its destiny to be one nation, united and indivisible.

But it was not until later that I understood the depth and breadth of Dr. King?s sweeping vision for our country and for ourselves as a people. It was not until later that I understood Dr. King?s central message to all of us, irrespective of race or religion: that we are better than this, that we can do better, that our problems, no matter how intractable they may seem, no matter how enmeshed with our history, are solvable.

On this, the observance of what should have been Dr. King?s 79th birthday, I thank Dr. King and the many who fought for justice at his side, for having the courage and the wisdom to be our inspiration and our guide.  

His time may have been too short, but his message is eternal.