Oprah for President

Is there any woman or man more successful in America right now than Oprah Winfrey? The Presidential candidates are (literally) kissing up to her; her book club can make a best seller overnight; her TV ratings are solid; and as The New York Times reports, her new magazine, O: The Oprah Magazine, is the most successful magazine launch in memory. It’s clearly good to be Oprah right now, and it’s worth asking: What does she have that turns everything she touches into gold?

The New York mediacracy attributes the stunning success of O to Ms. Winfrey’s status as a national brand name. But they’re missing the deeper truth of her commercial ascent: She is authentic, without fakery, cant or hidden agenda. Which is why her magazine is selling out 75 percent of its newsstand copies (50 percent is considered phenomenal in the business). Over one million people have subscribed to O not because its proprietor is famous, but because the magazine speaks to them directly, about the hardships of divorce and depression and making a living, without the usual condescension and fluff of so-called women’s magazines. The Times reports that O ‘s newsstand sales are larger than the average sales of Vogue, Self and Martha Stewart Living combined. Ms. Winfrey’s secret formula is disarmingly simple: Just tell the truth. It took a talk show host from Chicago to teach the New York magazine industry how to create a magazine that means something to readers.

A magazine ultimately reflects its editor’s priorities and preoccupations. Just compare O’ s success with the plight of other highly hyped magazine launches of the recent past. Steven Brill ( Brill’s Content ) and Tina Brown ( Talk) are two pretentious wannabes, while Oprah Winfrey is an authentic “is-a-be.” And that’s the difference.

Go for the Gold, New York

At first glance, it seems like a political pipe dream: New York City as the host for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Alone among most world-class cities, New York has never hosted an Olympics- unlike Paris, London, Tokyo and even Los Angeles. Why not? The answer has to do with New Yorkers’ self-confidence: We’ve never needed the Olympics to ratify our place in the world.

We still don’t, but that hasn’t stopped an organization called NYC 2012 from preparing an intriguing bid for the Games. The group, while not above offering visions verging on fantasy-a beach volleyball site on the Brooklyn bank of the East River?-makes a persuasive argument that the city should welcome the world’s athletes. New Yorkers who might naturally scoff at the idea of Olympic sailors plowing through the waves off Coney Island might want to think twice. For after the torch went out, a New York Olympiad would leave a legacy of long-term benefits to the city’s infrastructure, most prominently a state-of-the art domed sports stadium on Manhattan’s West Side that could serve as home to the city’s professional teams.

Hosting an Olympics would concentrate the city’s mind on much-needed improvements that have been discussed for years. That the West Side rail yards have been allowed to remain an undeveloped wasteland borders on scandal. Should the Olympics come here, planners would convert that vacant space into a sports complex and business center, doing for the West Side what construction of the United Nations did for the East Side in the late 1940’s. An expanded No. 7 subway line would allow the Manhattan business district to be extended from river to river, creating new office and residential development on the far West Side. The outer boroughs would benefit as well, with new sports complexes that could be used by amateur athletes and city kids who are currently underserved when it comes to pools and playing fields.

Then there is the intangible: What city is better qualified than New York, home to millions of immigrants, to welcome athletes from nearly 200 countries? We understand what it’s like to have the world stop by for a visit, for the world lives here.

The only thing planners have to fear is skepticism itself. New Yorkers understandably are cynical about big projects. NYC 2012 has to sell this idea to the locals before the organization presents its plans to the Olympic committee. But if they can persuade New Yorkers, they can persuade anybody.

Shanah Tovah

The 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are meant to be a challenge and an opportunity for people of the Jewish faith to look within and take stock of their lives. This year, there is an external challenge as well, with Israelis and Palestinians embroiled in the worst violence in many years. It is a sad irony that, last year, the Jewish New Year came as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat were signing an agreement on the edge of the Red Sea, a document which foresaw an end to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians within the year. That peace has not come, but with the world’s attention now gathered around the Middle East, one must remain optimistic. And closer to home, there is much to be thankful for: Joseph Lieberman, the nation’s first Jewish nominee for Vice President, has emerged as the most popular, articulate and refreshing candidate on either ticket.

Indeed, the Mideast violence must not distract from this precious time of year, as Jewish people around the world renew their ties to each other and to the moral and spiritual values that have guided them for generations. These 10 days move from the celebration of the Jewish New Year, heralded by the call of the shofar, to the emotional crescendo of the beautiful, mournful and almost tragic Kol Nidre service on the eve of Yom Kippur. Then, in prayers on Yom Kippur, one asks that he or she be written into the Book of Life, God’s ledger of who shall live and who shall die, based upon who has been righteous and who has not.

In this time of casting out old troubles and praising new beginnings, this time of faith and family, joy and forgiveness, may all New Yorkers find a measure of peace.