Braley, Marisa Tomei, leaking faucets

I’ve been absent from the blog for a few days.  (No, I did not escape the cold in Jamaica, where it is currently 78 degrees.  I was sick at home, in Iowa, where it is currently 11 degrees but when you factor in the wind it seems like -5 degrees. Ever so grateful for central heating right about now.)  I return to the blog tonight with a few items.

Last weekend’s Iowa Press featured 2002 Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Gross and Iowa Christian Alliance president Steve Scheffler who is the Republican National Committeeman from Iowa.  I think there were references during the show to Governor Erbe and Governor Lightfoot — and to lightning rods.

The three Democrats running for the U.S. Senate went to the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO conference in Altoona yesterday.  Read Beaumont’s story.

Sad news this week that State Representative Roger Wendt has been diagnosed with lung cancer.  Two state senators — Pat Ward of West Des Moines and David Johnson of Ocheyedan — have been undergoing cancer treatment, as is Representative Paul Bell of Newton. 

Lots of other stuff happened in the world of Iowa politics, but you’ve probably kept up with it better than I over the past five days.  BTW: did Tiger Woods have a news conference? 

Oh, that headline?  It’s a reference to Congressman Bruce Braley’s testimony/questioning today during a House subcommmittee hearing about the Toyota “problem.”  Braley said he wanted to talk with two of the experts on the panel about the 1992 movie “My Cousin Vinnie” which starred Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei.

“It’s probably once of the best movies on trial advocacy and engineering I’ve ever seen and one of the scenes, a classic scene in that movie is when they’re sitting in this run-down hotel room arguing over who is responsible for a leaking faucet and Marisa Tomei — Mona Lisa Vito, the character (she played) in that movie — says to Joe Pesci that she turned off the faucet.

“And he said, ‘Are you sure?’

“And she said, ‘I’m sure.’

“And he said, ‘Are you sure you’re sure?’

“And she said, ‘I am.’

“And one of the reasons that scene is so important is because I have right here the reference manual on scientific evidence that’s used in federal courtrooms all over the country to deal with scientific evidence and engineering and there’s a specific chapter in here called ‘Success and Failure in Engineering’ that gets right to the heart at that faucet scene.

“It talks about the role of failure in engineering design. (Braley begins reading from the text)  ‘Failure is a central idea in engineering.  In fact, one definition of engineering might be that it is the avoidance of failure.  When a device, machine or structure is designed by an engineer, every way in which it might credibly fail must be anticipated to ensure that it is designed to function properly.’

“…It’s not that these companies are bad or are intending to build defects into the product, it’s just sometimes the rigorous application of design analysis and failure analysis has not been applied to correct the problem…Mr. Chairman, I think that’s been one of the problems with getting to the core of this (Toyota) problem all along is that we’ve been looking for mechanical failures that are a cheap, easy fix and haven’t done the type of rigorous failure analysis to get to the heart of the problem.”

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.