Belmont Club

As the world turns, and turns

Two news stories illustrate how the law of unintended consequences operates in public policy. The Daily Mail describes what happens when not enough resources for treating mouth disease are coupled with increased funding for tooth extractions. Amy King from Plymouth provides the headline: ‘I couldn’t find a dentist… Now, aged 21, I’ve had to have all my teeth removed’. It makes some sort of sense. No teeth, no problem.

Last week, statistics obtained by the Liberal Democrats revealed that the number of people having teeth extracted in hospital has risen by one third in the past four years. … But more pertinent is the fact that the rate of these extractions gathered pace after a deeply controversial contract for NHS dentists was introduced in April 2006. … More shocking still was the story of local resident Valerie Holsworth. Her inability to access NHS dental care since the year 2000 had forced her to resort to excruciatingly painful DIY dentistry. … Valerie described how, using a pair of her husband’s pliers, she wrenched out seven teeth. … Louise Webb, a 44-year-old careworker from Stoke-on-Trent, knows this only too well. Plagued by dental problems, she was referred to Birmingham NHS Dental Hospital and was told the only option was to have all but four teeth removed. ‘They told me they were going to rip them all out and then they would leave me for three or four months until the gums had healed before they gave me dentures,’ she says. ‘I’d already given up my job because I was so embarrassed by the way my teeth looked.’

Meanwhile, in another part of the world, a reader points out that the pirates of Somalia, stung by their recent reversal at the hands of the USN, have vowed: no more Mr. Nice Guy. We had our chance to get on pirates’ good side and blew it. The Associated Press reports:

Somali pirates, meanwhile, vowed retaliation for the deaths of three colleagues killed by U.S. Navy snipers in the rescue. Their anger raised fears for the safety of some 230 foreign sailors still held hostage in more than a dozen ships anchored off lawless Somalia.

“From now on, if we capture foreign ships and their respective countries try to attack us, we will kill them (the hostages),” Jamac Habeb, a 30-year-old pirate, told The Associated Press from one of Somalia’s piracy hubs, Eyl. “(U.S. forces have) become our No. 1 enemy.” …

“Every country will be treated the way it treats us. In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying,” Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in the Somali town of Gaan, told The Associated Press on Monday. “We will retaliate (for) the killings of our men.”

The famous saying that in the Army you should never volunteer for nothing is rooted in the realization that once people recognize you are good for something, like wiping out enemy machine gun nests and pillboxes, you will forever be put forward for the job until you either expire or clean them all out. It would be ironic, but not surprising, if international reaction to the USN’s success against the pirates will be to demand action — on their behalf — as a right from the US military; I mean ‘system administrator’. Like the pulled teeth it also makes sense in a perverted sort of way.