Come on Steve, prove you’re one of us

Where Are the British Birthers? | TPM

Calling on Stephen Hawking to provide his bona fides (hat tip: Ginny, via Twitter):

Perhaps there will be some brave republican willing to spearhead an investigation of whether Stephen Hawking actually IS British? Isn’t it awfully convenient that a man with no discernable British accent suddenly claims that he is British just after it’s pointed out the the UK health system would have euthanized him as a child? Where is his birth certificate? And, if he is proved to be a Brit (long shot, I bet) then ought he not be forced to alter his speech-machine to clearly add a few “guv’nah” and “by jove” references to his speech so that he’s no longer able to hide it?

Honestly, how could anyone make such a stupid mistake? Any basic check on his biography would have revealed that he was British and always had been. But I don’t think it’s the first time that someone had made this mistake.

When my family got one of its old PCs back in the mid-1990s, there was an entry for the British novelist Virginia Woolf, which inexplicably had a voice sample of her words read by an American woman. The American singer-songwriter, Emily Saliers (one half of the Indigo Girls), wrote a song about Woolf and was interviewed about the song, and referred to her as an American writer. Whether she got that impression from Encarta I don’t know, but any basic biography would have pointed out where Woolf was born, where she lived and where she died.

For the record, any British person will have benefited from the NHS, particularly if they have long term medical needs such as diabetes or (as in my case) thyroid deficiency, let alone any kind of disability, or have ever given birth. It’s not perfect, and perhaps some of its expenditure could be called wasteful (such as paying all the prescription charges for someone with a long-term medical need, even for medicine entirely unrelated to it), and some people do use private medicine and have insurance, but people don’t generally don’t go bankrupt to pay medical bills. We do not always get the most state-of-the-art medicine, but the NHS takes care of most things very effectively and even in the USA, only the well-insured or rich get the state-of-the-art medicine anyway.

As for the infamous so-called “death panels”, we have a department which decides which medicines are cost-effective because the NHS spends taxpayers’ money, and the usual refusals concern new and expensive medicines which have not been thoroughly tested enough. Many of the organisations which campaign for these drugs to be provided on the NHS are in fact funded by the drug industry. After all, if you fund an expensive drug to keep a terminally ill patient alive for another six months, it could lead to someone else being refused medicine which could cure their illness, make their disability less disabiling or save their life. (Also see this in today’s Guardian; hat tip to Shahid, via Twitter.)

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