As others see our mayor. Roxanne Qualls, former mayor of Cincinnati and board member of the Congress for the New Urbanism, speaking to a June 26 session of the Chicago-based group’s annual meeting: “Richard Daley is perhaps the greatest mayor this country has seen in decades. I’m not aware of any other city that has combined programs and practices to create one of the strongest senses of place in any city in the country.”

“Surely we should be seeing an increase in heart disease since 1990, a period over which we’ve all allegedly been growing thicker,” writes Radley Balko of the Cato Institute (National Post, June 16). But “according to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is down 16.5% since 1990. Coronary heart disease is down by nearly 25%. And incidence of stroke is down 10%. Critics might attribute these numbers to decreases in smoking, but the number of smokers in the United States dropped only from 25.4% to 22.1%.”

Baseball, church, you know–things like that. Sociologist Alan Wolfe, quoted in Homiletics (March-April) and requoted in Martin Marty’s “Context” (July): “In many ways the power has now shifted from the clergy to the congregation. The congregation now says to the clergy, ‘You give us a message that we want to hear or we’re going elsewhere.’ That’s what free agency is. We see it all the time in sports, and it certainly leads to better contracts, but whether it leads to team loyalty is another matter.”

Memo to CEOs everywhere. Cass Sunstein writes in a review of James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds (New Republic, June 28): “Organizations often do best if each individual behaves independently and does not pay a great deal of attention to the acts and the statements of others. ‘The smartest groups,’ he writes, ‘are made up of people with diverse perspectives who are able to stay independent of each other.'”

Honor roll. As of June 22, some 497 professors of law, international relations, diplomacy, and public policy had signed a letter to Congress registering their “objection to the systematic violation of human rights practiced or permitted by authorities of the United States within occupied Iraq during recent months” and calling on Congress “to ensure accountability for such violations and to safeguard against such egregious abuses in the future” ( Signatories from Northwestern University: Robert Bennett, Cynthia Grant Bowman, Anthony D’Amato, Karen Daniel, and Donna Leff. From Chicago-Kent College of Law: Daniel Hamilton, Marcia McCormick, David Rudstein, Joan Steinman, and Margaret Stewart. From the University of Chicago: Albert Alschuler, Susan Gzesh, Mark Heyrman, and Randolph Stone. From DePaul: Gil Gott.

Energy efficiency in action. From the online “PPI Trade Fact of the Week” for June 16: “In 1973, the United States used 76 quadrillion BTUs of energy to run a $4.1 trillion economy.” Last year we used 97 quadrillion BTUs to power a nearly $11 trillion economy.

Give this guy a “most dedicated customer” award. Monorail advocate and general transit gadfly William F. Wendt Jr., who lives in Chicago, tells a story from the early 1980s in a recent publicly distributed letter: “I lived in a nearby suburb, and…a fellow asked me how to get to CTA. Lucky he asked me, of all people, because some months earlier I had carried my bike across the old railroad trestle over the river, taken the right-of-way through the cemetery, and climbed a rather well-worn fence to get to the CTA parking lot.”

Is North Shore U.S. representative Mark Kirk really a moderate Republican? Not to judge from a thick June 23 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which identifies him as the author of an amendment to the current budget-enforcement bill: “The amendment would exempt tax cuts from fiscal discipline and allow unlimited future tax cuts, while requiring large cuts in domestic programs….By contrast, under the pay-as-you-go rules established on a bipartisan basis in 1990 with the support of the first President Bush, entitlement increases and tax cuts both had to be paid for.”