Think About It: Clear as mud

Today’s column is written to answer the philosophical question that has puzzled generations of inquiring minds: “When mud is cleared, is it still mud?”

I am inspired to write by logically inclined people who act in ways that make no practical or inspirational sense whatsoever, in other words act clear as mud. Moreover, they are oblivious to the consequences, intended or not; either that or they are especially poor planners or exceptionally cunning schemers.

I offer a few examples to spur our contemplation.

Masking madness mud

Mask-deniers are vindicated by a February Cochran report that concluded following a meta study that involved 78 studies — which I have since learned is a meta-analysis — that wearing masks made little difference to the number of people who contracted diseases such as influenza and Covid.

I had the good fortune to see an interview with one of the co-authors of the study who confirmed the conclusion. I cannot recall or retrieve his name but wish I could. I admired him for his scientific view. The interviewer asked questions with the unmistakable whiff of trying to get him to weigh in on the political issue of masks. He responded by saying one problem with using studies is that people want certainty.

Finally, he said he was uncomfortable commenting on the milieu of politics — not his area. He is a scientist.

The same interviewer had earlier interviewed Dr. Fauci who acknowledged the merits of the Cochran report but said it does not mean individuals did not benefit from wearing masks.

Although written about in February, the report did not cause much buzz until the incidence of COVID related hospitalizations rose. “Do we have to wear masks again?” lamented hundreds of thousands if not millions of people.

Public health and medical advice are the same. Those of us in a high-risk group such as over-60, obese, medically compromised should wear an N95 mask in crowded areas and any area in which we feel we could be exposed.

But no, we do not have to do anything although you may learn there are health care settings that prefer or mandate masks.

That the decision is ours is clear.

Still, we will be stuck in the political mudslinging over masking during the pandemic and what the scientist stuck in an outside of his objective world interview would say is science evolving. I predict this mud will never be cleared.


A couple of actions caught my attention around the abortion issue which intentionally or not muddy the appeal of those who support eliminating abortion as a woman’s choice.

The antiabortionists realize they are losing the war in that most Americans support a woman’s right to make decisions about her body. The loss rings true when their notion of denying that right loses at the ballot box, whether pro-life candidate or initiative to keep or restore reproductive rights.

The news leaked that they are considering renaming the anti-abortion effort from pro-life to pro-baby.

Rebranding is a marketing strategy used when the brand name is getting bad reviews. Product gets a new hat in hopes no one will remember the old one. I guess it works because businesses often turn to the strategy when in an identity crisis.

“Pro-baby” is certainly a positive take. Who is not pro babies? For that matter, who is not pro-life at its most generic? Better rethink this one, anti-choicers. Pro-baby is the same, only more so — all about the life of the fertilized egg, embryo, fetus, and viable baby without any involvement of mom.

The anti-choice campaign is stuck in the mud. The consequences are clear whatever it is called.

Highway patrol

A campaign in Texas has begun to convince small town councils, especially those with roads that lead into another state to pass laws to forbid the use of those roads to transport a woman to another state to have an abortion. They say it is about “abortion trafficking.”

The law puts a “bounty” on the head of anyone who assists a pregnant woman to go to another state for reproductive care by allowing them to be sued. Once again, it is a field day for bounty hunters to track down fertile young women.

Yet, no one has been sued. A pro-choice advocate offers this explanation. “The purpose of these laws is not to meaningfully enforce them,” said Neesha Davé, executive director of the Lilith Fund, an abortion fund based in Texas. “It’s the fear that’s the point. It is the confusion that’s the point.” (Washington Post, Caroline Kitchener, Sept. 1, 2023)

Most laws work this way as deterrents. Perhaps they could expand the law to include transporting Fentanyl — just a thought. Clearly, a case of muddying the good name of highways.

Power play

Finally, there is Tommy Tuberville who is exercising the power of a single senator to grind the senate to a halt in any area. Senator Tuberville has stopped the procedure that allows the Senate to vote on blocks of military promotions instead of one at a time.

He is holding the line until the Department of Defense takes back the order to pay the cost of travel for military women who seek out of the state reproductive care.

Leaders of all services have nearly begged him to relent because the promotion standstill is creating national security risks and seriously affecting military morale.

I have written before about the inordinate power held by the Senate leader. Tuberville is teaching me that each senator has inordinate power to bring down the military of the United States.

Astonishing! And far more damaging than a highway that goes through a small Texas town or changing a name or wearing a mask.

Clear as mud. Clear as the birth of the universe. I have nothing on this but great sympathy for all of us if this is the best our government can do.

The question is moot. Too many of us prefer mud wrestling to make it possible to clear the mud.

Bertha Cooper, an award-winning featured columnist with the Sequim Gazette, spent her career years in health care administration, program development and consultation. Reach her at