An ex-justice warns about campaign danger

Former Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens is retired from the bench but, fortunately, not from public life. (Last week), he made an unusual appearance before the Senate Rules Committee to testify about the shredding of campaign finance laws.

Justice Stevens knows this subject better than most. In 2010, he wrote the eloquent dissent to the Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates of political spending to the clear detriment of democracy - something he predicted at the time. But the Supreme Court only compounded the damage in its McCutcheon decision last month.

For the conservative majority on the court, money equals free speech - and it's a wonder there are any limits left at all. Justice Stevens was there to say this view has to change: "While money is used to finance speech, money is not speech."

But nothing will change unless Americans insist on it and Justice Stevens points the way. He recently wrote a book titled "Six Amendments - How and Why We Should Change the Constitution." Pertinent to this discussion, he proposes an amendment on campaign financing which would prohibit the First Amendment to be used as an excuse to deny "reasonable limits" on expenditures.

Although defining "reasonable" would keep future jurists occupied, this may be America's last hope.

—The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 2


Ignorance can help bring measles back

The infectious disease measles was declared "eliminated" in the United States 14 years ago, thanks to widespread vaccination, but that doesn't mean it is unknown here.

Since January, 168 cases have been reported in the U.S., up from 37 in all of 2004. Four cases of measles have been reported in Connecticut so far this year— more than the total for the past eight years combined. That's an alarming trend.

The return of measles is a public health issue with potentially serious consequences. It's not clear what's behind this year's outbreak, but if it's due to parents refusing to allow their children to be vaccinated, they are putting their families and their communities at risk.

What these adults may be fearing is a 16-year-old report in a British medical journal that linked the measles vaccine to autism. The article was quickly discovered to have no basis in fact; the medical licenses of two of its authors were revoked, the report was completely retracted and the research declared fraudulent by the British Medical Journal.

But of course, that wasn't the end of it. Some conspiracy theorists still cling to the vaccine-autism link. Poppycock, like measles, is difficult to eliminate entirely.

Measles is mostly a childhood disease, but the virus can infect adults, sometimes with more serious results. Most children recover completely, but complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis can occur.

But those with measles may infect others. Refusing to have one's children vaccinated is a choice that can have an impact beyond the immediate family.

There's no reason why all of society should be held hostage by the mistaken notions of a few. Getting vaccinated against measles makes sense not only for children, but for everyone.

—The Hartford Courant, May 8