Seriously — it's likely true.
Doubts raised on US 'plumber Joe'
Joe, who is named Samuel, admits he does not have a plumber's licence
Doubt has been cast over the story of "Joe the plumber", the man who unexpectedly became the star of this week's US presidential debate.
Joe Wurzelbacher, of Ohio, was thrown into the spotlight after he was used by John McCain as an example of who might suffer under Barack Obama's tax plans.
But it now emerges he is not a licensed plumber and owes $1,200 in back taxes.
Meanwhile, the two candidates traded jokes, not jibes, at a dinner a day after their final televised debate.
Mr Obama and Mr McCain took to the stage in New York trading wisecracks about their campaigns, in light relief to the tense atmosphere of the debate the night before.
Mr Obama retains a five-point lead over his Republican rival following Wednesday's third and final debate, according to the latest poll by Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby on Friday.
And the Washington Post newspaper has endorsed Barack Obama, saying he has shown the right characteristics needed to take the country through a time of great economic uncertainty.
Joe Wurzelbacher, 34, found himself at the centre of a media frenzy on Thursday after "Joe the plumber" was mentioned 26 times during the final debate.
A week earlier, he had confronted Mr Obama at a rally, questioning the Democratic candidate on tax plans that would see him taxed more if a plumbing business he hoped to buy earned more than $250,000 a year.
He was held by Mr McCain in the debate as an example of an every day hard-working American who would be penalised by Mr Obama's tax policy.
However, a bit of media digging has uncovered that Mr Wurzelbacher's first name is actually Samuel and he does not have a plumber's licence, although the company he works for does.
According to Tony Herrera, of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 50 in Toledo, Ohio, Mr Wurzelbacher cannot practise in Toledo without a licence - although he can work for someone with a master's licence or in outlying areas that do not require a licence.
According to local court records, Mr Wurzelbacher also owes the state of Ohio $1,182.98 in personal income tax.
Mr Wurzelbacher acknowledged he did not have a plumber's licence and admitted in one interview he was "not even close" to earning $250,000.
At a fundraiser for Catholic charities on Thursday night, Mr McCain joked that he had replaced all his campaign advisers. "All of their positions will now be held by a man named Joe the plumber," he said.
He also made a jokey reference to Barack Obama's fierce rival for the Democratic candidacy, Hillary Clinton, who was also in the audience.
"I can't shake the feeling that some people here are pulling for me. I'm delighted to see you here tonight Hillary," he said.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama said he needed to correct some misconceptions about his background.
"I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father, Jor-el, to save the Planet Earth," he said, in a reference to Superman.
He also listed his great strength as "my humility" and his greatest weakness as being "a little too awesome".
The annual dinner has a tradition of presidential candidates as headline speakers before the election.
Both men paid tribute to each other, with Mr Obama praising Mr McCain's service to his country as a former Navy pilot and prisoner of war in Vietnam.
Mr McCain praised Mr Obama for his bid to become the first black president. "I can't wish my opponent luck but I do wish him well."
WATCHING the US election from a distance, it's hard not to be convinced that many American voters may have lost the plot.
Over 40 million Americans have no health insurance. A March 2008 report from the non-partisan, non-profit organisation National Priorities Project estimates that the total cost of the Iraq War by the end of the 2009 fiscal year will be $US745.7 billion, with the US Government surplus for the same period reaching up to $US1 trillion. Americans are having their homes repossessed at an alarming rate, and around a million are homeless. And yet millions of American voters could be swayed by the middle name and religious heritage of one of the presidential candidates.
The United States is arguably the most secular nation on earth. The pledge of allegiance recited by school students across America may refer to "one nation under God", but the US Constitution states an atheist can be elected to even the highest office in the land. As can a person of Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Shinto, Zoroastrian and any other background.
Yet the voting choices of millions of Americans (including those hardest hit by hard economic times) could be swayed by sectarian prejudice. Barack Obama may be 10% ahead in the polls, but some are wondering whether many voters are telling pollsters the truth.
In Obama's case, this isn't just a case of the Bradley Effect, the phenomenon London's Times recently described as polls overestimating support for an African-American candidate because "when race is involved, voters misrepresent their intentions".
It isn't just racial prejudice at work here. Many voters are less concerned about Obama's late mother spending her last days fighting health insurance companies over the costs of her cancer treatment than they are about why she married a Kenyan man who gave her son a middle name as common as John in some parts of the world but which Americans associate with a nasty non-Christian religion. As one Ohio voter told The Times: "I ain't gonna lie to you. A lot of people around here don't want Obama because of his colour. And it's his name that bothers me. It's Muslim."
At numerous Republican rallies, reference is made to "Barack Hussein Obama". When one nervous Republican told McCain she didn't trust Obama because "he is an Arab", McCain's response was to take the microphone off her and say "no, he's a decent family man" — as if Obama couldn't be both an Arab and a decent family man.
John McCain told David Letterman that Sarah Palin's claims Obama was "pallin' around with terrorists" referred to William Ayers. Letterman reminded McCain that Palin referred not just to one terrorist. McCain explained this away with the words: "Millions of words are said during an election campaign."
Indeed. And some 28 million DVDs have been distributed in major newspapers in swing states by a pro-Republican group reminding American voters that "radical Islam" is at war with the US.
Prejudice is such an effective political tool. It doesn't need facts and logic to sustain it. Prejudice can manufacture its own "facts" which, when mixed with innuendo, take on a life of their own.
Prejudice is an advanced level of hatred. Generally hatred is fuelled by ignorance and cured by hard facts, but all the facts in the world cannot combat prejudice.
Some pundits have turned manufacturing facts into an art form, one claiming that Obama's wearing of a sarong in Jakarta and occasionally attending the mosque with his stepfather's relatives was a clear sign that he "practised Islam". The same pundit also suggested that the name "Hussein" is known to be associated only with Islam.
What we don't hear is the story that children across the Muslim world learn — the story of the rabbi who 14 centuries ago joined the religious movement of Muhammad. That rabbi was asked by Muhammad to change his name to Abdullah, literally meaning "God's servant". And the rabbi's original name? Hussein.
Recently FoxNews featured an "expert" who claimed Obama's work as a "community organiser" was "training for the overthrow of the government". The New York Times later exposed this "expert" as a serial litigant who once described a judge as a "crooked slimy Jew".
Australians have experienced this kind of imbecilic politics. In the 2004 election, an ALP candidate in the western Sydney seat of Greenway faced the same treatment. A fortnight out from the election, one Sydney columnist wanted to know why the candidate didn't explain what the names of his parents signified. On the eve of the election, a mysterious pamphlet circulated claiming the candidate would work for Islam. A seat that was once safe Labor became Liberal.
The Liberal Party denied responsibility for the pamphlet. When the same trick was tried in Lindsay in the 2007 election, one honest Young Liberal
tipped off the ALP campaign team. The rest, as they say, is history.
Obama isn't just facing the Bradley Effect. What we are seeing in this presidential election might be described as the Lindsay pamphlet effect. One can only hope that, on this occasion, decent Republicans will expose the fraud.
Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney lawyer and a former federal Liberal candidate.
Court blocks Ohio vote challenge
Mr Obama has a narrow lead in Ohio boosted by new voters
The US Supreme Court has blocked attempts by the Republican Party to challenge the right of 200,000 new voters to cast their ballots in Ohio.
An appeal court had previously backed a complaint brought by the party, which argued that the voters' details did not match federal records.
Their concern was over registered voters backing Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama for president.
A Democratic official said Republicans were trying to disenfranchise voters.
Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, said that although there were 200,000 cases where voter registration did not match social security or motor vehicle registration records, the majority of the cases were mis-spellings or inaccuracies in data bases.
"Federal government red tape, mis-stated technical information or glitches in databases should not be the basis for voters having to cast provisional ballots," she said.
The Federal Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, had ordered Ms Brunner to supply county election boards in Ohio with lists of the disputed electors, which could have led to these voters being issued with provisional ballots, open to challenge.
Officials said the measure would have caused considerable delays on election day.
The US Supreme Court ruling means that Ms Brunner will no longer have to supply the lists.
The court said its ruling was not a comment on whether Ohio was complying with a provision of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 that lays out requirements for verifying voter eligibility.
Instead, the ruling was based on a judgment that the law does not allow private entities - like the Ohio Republican Party - to bring the case to court.
John McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis stressed that the court ruling was not a judgement on the validity of the Republican Party's case.
"If you look at what the ruling said, it said that the Republican Party didn't have standing in order to bring the suit," he told reporters on a campaign conference call. "It didn't make a decision on the merits of the case."
"I think that the secretary of state ought to do her job," he added.
The winner of the 2008 election is likely to be the candidate who is most successful at getting their voters to the polls.
The Obama campaign, in particular, has invested heavily in a voter registration drive to sign up new voters drawn from the ranks of its supporters, such as young people.
And they appear to have managed to increase the number of newly registered Democrats significantly in a number of key swing states in addition to Ohio, such as Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina.
So any further legal challenges to their right to vote could have a big effect on the election outcome if the contest is close.
In the 2000 US election, disputed ballots in Florida led to an election deadlock that was only resolved by the Supreme Court.
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