Death and Donuts–Preorder Today

Pen-L will publish Death and Donuts on November 22nd. The book includes a conspiracy by extremists, a killer who stalks Hollywood’s biggest stars, a designer drug some claim is better than sex and a triangle consisting of a psychic, his girlfriend, and a very sexy ghost. The book can be ordered online from all major booksellers including Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but why wait? You can preorder right now from Pen-L: http://www.pen-l.com/DeathAndDonuts.html

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Trump Asks Hillary Face-to-Face About Bill’s Infidelities: Political Scenario

Let’s say the election is down to the wire when time comes for the final debate. Trump is VERY close in the rust belt states. He could carry Pennsylvania if only he can persuade a few more college educated women to vote for him. He knows what has worked for him in the past, so he decides to go for broke.

As in most debates, the moderator gives Trump and Hillary the opportunity to each ask the other one question they would like answered. Trump is first. He narrows his eyes and stares at Hillary before asking his question: “Lying Hillary, how can you say you are the best candidate for women when you attacked innocent women’s reputations when your predator husband raped them and took advantage of his position as President?”

Let’s hope that Hillary, known for preparing hard, has prepared for this question. Here’s her answer: “I can’t believe you would say something like this, but then again, you also questioned the parents of a Muslim American war hero. Unlike you who discard women when you think they’ve reached their expiration date and unlike you who talk about women like they are the sum total of their most (to you) desirable parts, I believe in making a marriage work. We’ve been married 46 years. I love my husband. Maybe I gave him the benefit of the doubt and believed him when he told me he hadn’t strayed, but that’s what you do when you love someone and also what you do when the right-wing propaganda machine already had lied about him so very many times. When I found out he lied, believe me, it wasn’t very pleasant for either one of us. I’ve been supporting women’s rights since I was 18 while you’ve never had a word to say about it until this year. Now, I’m a very private person. I’ve answered your question. I will not discuss this topic again in any interview or debate.”

Hillary could even tear up as she did when asked how she could keep going in her tough primary race against Barack Obama. That would pretty much finish Trump.

As an aside, I think Hillary might begin referring to Trump simply as “Vladimir Putin’s secret best friend as his taxes would reveal.”

Death and Donuts

There’s an interesting story behind the title of my latest in the Frankie and Josh series– we’ll relate that story another time. I’ve been writing like a madman and just completed the first draft of this novel. There’s a lot of work on my part ahead and just as much if not more work from Pen-L before the book sees the light of day. Still, it’s always far easier to shape and refine a block of words than it is to stare at a blank page.

I think you’ll enjoy the story and the reappearance of Frankie, Josh, and the friendly and sassy Andy. It’s a political year, and the book has political overtones and a political theme. I hope you all enjoy picking up and reading a copy later this year. I will reveal the cover when the book finally reaches that stage of development.

Don’t Do It, Hillary!

I proudly voted twice for President Obama; that means I voted AGAINST you in 2008. Now my choice comes down to Donald Trump or you (Hillary Clinton). Imagine if my best friend sets me up with a girl who has just inherited millions of dollars. He tells me that she REALLY likes me and that she’s fairly pretty and smart. When I go out on that first date I would pray that I’d like her. God, I want to like you, Hillary, because I hate what would happen to the country if Trump is elected, but it’s so difficult.

First of all, you married a guy who humiliated you so many times with the press that you dread even seeing anyone with a press badge approach you. How many times can you stand behind your man when he thinks with his little head and then just says “Oh shucks! Why do all these bad things happen to me?”

Hillary, you’ve become so averse to the press that most now actively dislike you because you haven’t held a press conference since all my hair was dark brown. Because of your obsession with privacy you did the dumbest possible thing —you turned a cakewalk election into a nail biter because you screwed up your strongest arguments for being elected President –having good judgment and being trustworthy. No one ever associated those traits with Donald Trump, but the polls say most people think he’s more trustworthy. Can you imagine that? The man who shilled for Trump University, Trump Meats, and Trump casinos and declared bankruptcy more times than Bill smiled when he saw a white trash blond with big headlights.

That’s bad enough. As it is, a lot of us on the progressive side are figuring on holding our nose and voting for you because of the alternative. That means we have to overlook Planet Hillary with all your sycophants who surround you and tell you what you want to hear. It means we have to put up with the old Clinton group of elitists who are pro global trade because they and the Clinton Foundation profit. It also means we have to put up with your inability to stop braying when you speak instead of learning from Elizabeth Warren how to be a great speaker without having to raise your voice. It also means putting up with Bill Clinton putting his foot in his mouth at every opportunity.

What it doesn’t mean is that I or a lot of people like me can tolerate the idea of you appointing Julian Castro as your VP. He’s now on your short list. I know, you  Clintons clearly love him. He’s a young 42 year-old Hispanic who used to be an average mayor of San Antonio (not exactly Newark and not exactly being the Governor of Virginia AND a senator or being a former Governor of a swing state like Colorado). He was pretty much out of job options, so President Obama appointed him to head up Housing and Urban Affairs, a position he has managed to screw up to the point where progressives rose up in arms.

Hillary, for God’s sake, Trump already has alienated Hispanics. You don’t need a token Hispanic to show what a history-making ticket you head or to get 85%+ of the Hispanic vote. If you want a Hispanic light, appoint Tim Kaine who speaks fluent Spanish. At least it wouldn’t seem like pandering.

Who would even consider Castro qualified should you die? Face it, Hillary, you’re 69 years old and have a lot of wear and tear on you. All those globe trotting trips as Secretary of State didn’t help. I realize that most people see being your VP as a fool’s errand. Who in his right mind would think that you would bring your VP into your decision making when you have Bill? So, instead of emphasizing the strengths of your VP compared to Mike Pence, you’re entertaining the idea of putting up even more of a lightweight –someone who everyone knows you never would consider if his name was Julius Smith. I don’t care about his ivy league education— you have one as well and look how you screwed up the email business. Bill’s Ivy league education didn’t teach him to keep his fly zipped either (I voted twice for him also).

If you choose Julian Castro, it tells me that you are not smart enough to be President despite your former reputation for being the smartest person in the room. What additional votes do you think you’d gain that you wouldn’t gain with Tim Kaine or the Governor from Colorado? You just might lose mine because I hate the notion of anyone pandering to an ethnic group. I don’t like it when Donald Trump panders to white bigots and I don’t like it if you pander to the Hispanic community by selecting someone who clearly is not qualified and has not paid his dues with a series of responsible jobs. Choose the most qualified person you can find. I know that Julian has a twin brother. Are you thinking that one Castro can carry your bags while the other one runs another errand? Bill used to argue that a vote for him meant getting two for the price of one (I assume he meant you).

Castro seems like a nice enough guy who should get a real job and build his resume if he wants to run for President. The ability to give a good speech is not qualification for President or VP. He’s more like a boy toy at his age, especially when he stands beside you. Choose a mature, seasoned politician like Tim Kaine or someone else with similar credentials. Don’t let little Mike Pence pull the experience card and use it against Castro. Show that you are capable of making good decisions and choose someone whose qualifications are beyond question.

My Guess: Trump Will Shock Everyone and Choose Cruz

I’ve been thinking about the theater associated with Donald Trump’s choice of VP. Most so-called “experts” believe he’s down to Christie (the man who prosecuted his daughter’s father-in-law), Newt (3 wives, lots of baggage, and another old white man but perhaps the one person who absolutely would make Trump impeachment proof), and Indiana Governor Mike Pence (can’t even get re-elected as Governor, so boring he makes grass growing sound exciting). What a choice!

Trump knows he needs some excitement. I’m sure if he had his way, he would nominate himself or his daughter for VP, but that won’t fly. So, how can he shock the world, generate enormous amounts of publicity, and help himself in the election. Who is the one candidate besides Newt who matches Donald when it comes to vileness. Who is a younger version of Richard Nixon? Ted Cruz. Let me explain why this could happen.

Cruz hasn’t endorsed Trump, but he is scheduled to speak at the convention; we just don’t know when. Imagine if he dramatically endorses Trump. After all, he was the only candidate besides Carson who said nice things about Trump until there were only two of them left. So, why does Cruz make sense to Donald Trump?

  • He’s an absolute shocker guaranteed to shake up everyone. He also guarantees that any movement to replace Trump will be unsuccessful. Remember that Cruz has the second-most delegates there.
  • Cruz brings the best organization of any party and the highest approval ratings from Evangelicals–the very group that doesn’t trust Trump.
  • Cruz speaks passable Spanish— A few key Hispanic votes in Florida would help Trump as would Cruz’s political machine in Iowa.
  • Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer. Cruz is already mounting a campaign for the next election (2020). He would look disloyal to most Republicans as the VP candidate if he worked actively against his Presidential candidate or (God Forbid!) his President.
  • Except for the Freedom Caucus, most Republican House members hate Cruz. There goes any chance of them encouraging Democrats to impeach President Trump with their minimal help.
  • Cruz can down and dirty; he’s great at it and great at spinning loony conspiracy theories. Trump can act Presidential (snicker) during the campaign.

Why would Cruz choose to go along with this bombshell? He’s one of the most ambitious people in office (that’s saying a lot). He’s wanted to be President almost as long as Hillary Clinton. If Trump wins, Cruz is young enough to wait and be perfectly positioned to be the next Republican nominated. If Tump loses, then Cruz gets kudos from some Republican voters for his loyalty to the party. He has such strong Conservative markers that being with Trump won’t hurt him. After all, he always can get re-elected in Texas. Additionally, he doesn’t have to worry about offending mainstream Republican officer holders (are any left?) and consultants/talking heads on TV because they already hate him.

Okay, it might not be Cruz, but I’m betting it won’t be one of the four names the press has been bandying about. Trump knows from reality TV that he needs surprises to keep the audience coming back for more. if I am right, I would not be happy because it would be a formidable team that would tilt even more to the right. If elected, God help us, I can imagine America becoming more like Kansas. If you have been reading what’s happening in Kansas, then you can see why it frightens me.

An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders

Hi Bernie,

We have a lot in common. We come from the same cultural and religious background, we’re around the same age, and we both have wives named Jane. I’ve watched you for years as you ranted about injustice on MSNBC. I never checked, but I figure you didn’t appear often on Fox. In any event, I’ve watched this year as you came out of thirty years of obscurity, a back bencher who never seemed to be part of the Democratic caucus in the Senate even though you often voted with them. What a year! After so many years of being ignored, suddenly you became a rock star. I’m sure you helped push Hillary to the left on many issues. I suspect you’ll even win battles to eliminate Super Delegates, reduce the cost of college, and maybe even get rid of the DMC Chair. Most people would agree that someone in that position should not have her thumb on the scales when it comes to scheduling debates.

I voted for you in the primary here in California in order to send a message that most of us are tired of business as usual and corrupt politicians. No one would accuse you of changing your positions for campaign donations since you haven’t really changed your positions in 30 years. You were booed recently when you appeared before House Democrats. I’m sure it was music to your ears. You told one reporter that they needed to hear your message and you railed again against Super Delegates, a category that probably included most of the people in that room.

I guess many of us plan to hold our nose and vote for Hillary. I have to agree with you that she and her husband have never seen a trade deal they didn’t support. She definitely is part of the elite who have run this country for years. She’s a hawk, and most of us agree with you that we never should have gone into Iraq. She is by far the weakest candidate the Democrats could run, even though it’s clear the bench is very thin. Think of the possibilities if Sharrod Brown had been our nominee. Between you and me, I have to confess that you do have serious drawbacks as the party nominee. You’re an absolutist. People who are true believers like  you want to bring about revolutions and don’t want to compromise. Ask yourself if you would accept lower cost for college rather than free college tuition immediately. Ask yourself if you would accept a Democratic platform that is neutral on the pacific trade deal. It’s hard for Democrats to repudiate their own popular President and completely repudiate his trade deal. I think we both know the answer.

Absolutists make lousy Presidents because they never can compromise. How many Republicans do you think you could persuade to your position? Throw away Obamacare and then hope to get a single payer health program through? That would be like throwing away the baby with the bathwater. Yet, you seem incapable of seeing a road that includes compromise. Perhaps it is because you know Hillary Clinton will say anything to get elected and then proceed doing what she planned all along. You’re probably right about that, but I think you need to think about the bigger picture.

We need a VP choice with progressive qualifications to be in position to run AFTER Hillary, whether that means after two terms or after something untimely happens to her. The next Republican candidate will certainly be much harder to beat with as weak a candidate as weak have now. The Democratic party can be moved more toward the progressive end of the spectrum, but it might take more than one election turn. Meanwhile, you’ve dug your feet in and have refused to endorse Hillary because so far she hasn’t given you a speaking opportunity or surrendered on all your key demands. Remind me, who won the primaries?

I feel your pain. Hillary is a TERRIBLE candidate. She brays rather than orates. She has no charisma, and she is so careful about giving poll-tested answers, that she never comes across as authentic. Bill has so badly wounded her that she prizes her privacy more than anything and is willing to do anything to keep her personal affairs private. That’s her Achille’s heel and resulted in her decision to have her own email server. Hillary is like the young lady played by Reese Witherspoon in Election; she’s the smartest  and most ambitious girl in the class who works and works and works but never generates any excitement. She certainly never generated the crowds you do or the crowds President Obama did. Having said that, she’s what we have. The delegates at next month’s convention won’t overturn her now. I suppose a lot of us thought that the FBI might recommend prosecution. If they had, I’m sure Hillary would have held on and not released her delegates. it’s something she’s wanted her entire life. So, the party would have limped along with a severely wounded candidate. ANY Republican candidate with the exception of Donald Trump would probably be miles ahead in the polls by now. Hillary is so weak that, God forbid, Trump might squeak out a victory by attracting every dumb white without a college degree. God must love poor dumb whites because HE (or SHE) created so many of them, particularly in the South and in the Midwest. You know and I know that manufacturing jobs for people with high school educations are not coming back to America. New manufacturing jobs will require technical training; the last time I checked, the Republicans have voted down any attempt to funnel money to community colleges to offer such programs.

The real problem is that Donald Trump represents an existential threat to this country. Your reluctance to endorse her and try to bring along your supporters could very well spell defeat in the fall, particularly if younger voters stay away and don’t vote. Perhaps you are thinking along the same lines as Henry Clay who once said he’d rather be right than be President. If you stand back with your stiff back and refuse anything but 100% victory on all your points, you very well could bring about a Trump presidency. Imagine that for a moment. Even worse, imagine a Supreme Court packed for the next forty years with justices who will tighten the grip of the one percent on this country. Imagine President Trump signing all kinds of bills that restrict voter rights and try to maintain the Republicans’ strangle hold. Imagine national anti-abortion laws as well as tax increases for the average person. imagine a Republican controlled Senate and House that eliminates Social Security and Medicare as we know it because we can’t afford these programs and then raids the treasury to enrich the wealthy and fat cat corporations.

Imagine a Donald Trump who grows angry when a foreign government doesn’t go along with his crazy demands. What does he do? Who knows? Imagine restricting all foreign trade and bringing about the next great Depression. Believe me, it will be HUGE.

So, Bernie, you have a choice. You can hold your nose like many of us and vote and endorse the lesser of two evils while you use the enormous war chest you’ve built to support progressive candidates for the House and Senate. You also can use the funds to help elect local progressives at the state level so that when redistricting time comes in 2020, there will be enough locally elected progressives to change the voting map and kick out conservative members of Congress who thought they had a lifetime job because of gerrymandering.

Pride comes before the fall. So, Bernie, will you get over the rush that comes from finally being heard after shouting alone in the wilderness for years and work from within the party to reform it? If you choose to try to make this year the year of your revolution, you could bring about Trump’s victory. Life probably wouldn’t change much for you. After all, Vermont would still elect you and most Democrats in the Senate would continue to avoid you. What about the average American who isn’t guaranteed  a lifetime income and almost lifetime employment? Most average Americans would suffer with the Republicans controlling both the House and Senate while a indifferent Republican President makes decisions based on who can flatter him the most and provide him with bills that help the Trump empire grow even larger. The IRS? Cut its budget because it prosecutes people like him. The FBI? Replace everyone with people who will do what he says. The Press? Restrict their freedom and throw more reporters out of White House briefings. Bring charges against them whenever possible. Healthcare? Let the states decide. The list goes on and on. The only thing I’m actually sure about is that under President Trump every town square will have a larger than life statue of Trump. That you can count on!

 

 

 

BookBub and Other Bloodsuckers Preying on Writers

One of the unfortunate developments of the publishing revolution that now makes it possible for almost anyone to publish a book is that an entire industry has sprung up with the single minded purpose of sucking money from writers who are desperate to get word of their books to the general public. Think about it. There are so many books out there now that readers have trouble cutting through all the noise. A new mystery? If your name isn’t Michael Connelly or James Patterson or a handful of other authors with millions of fans, then your book is liable to languish with no reviews and very few sales because people just haven’t heard about it.

Into this vacuum has rushed a number of companies who offer authors the opportunity to PAY huge amounts of money for the privilege of offering their books for vastly reduced prices or even for free in order to attract readers who might or might not review it and might or might not tell friends about the book and might or might not purchase other books you’ve written.

I refer to these companies as bloodsuckers because they profit regardless of how successful or unsuccessful authors are. They are like the early shopkeepers in California who figured out they always win by selling miners tools and clothes. Even if the miners failed to find gold, the shopkeepers won. In fact, it was to their advantage to spread stories of miners who struck it rich to encourage more miners to head west. In effect these marketing websites sell the dream of bestseller status to authors, particularly self-published authors who do not have a major publisher’s marketing department behind them.

The biggest bloodsucker out there is BookBub. This company has hundreds of thousands of subscribers who download free or heavily discounted books. Authors pay outrageous sums for that privilege. Have a cozy mystery that you want to discount from $2.99 to $.99. BookBub will charge you $900 or so. If you offer the book for free, then the cost is around $410. Think about that for a moment. If an author is selling a book through Amazon for $.99 instead of the normal $2.99, then he receives around $.30 per book as a royalty. Even if the book is enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Direct program (KDP), the author would only receive around $.70. The last time I looked at BookBub’s website, it estimated an average of around 3,000 downloads for a cozy mystery priced at $.99. IF the author was very lucky, the book might just about break even with no profit. Of course the author could offer the book free and pay around $450 for that privilege. BookBub’s website claimed on the day I last looked that an average of 30,000 or so readers might be attracted to a cozy mystery if it were offered for free.

Companies like BookBub entice authors by whispering that visibility is worth losing money or breaking even. That might be true if an author has a series and offers just one of them on sale. Theoretically, the reader might be so entranced by the free book that he or she decides to pay full price for the rest of the books in the series.

Here is why this value proposition breaks down. I talked with a BookBub subscriber. Her response to my question was that she routinely downloads a number of FREE books when she receives the latest blast. She may or may not get around to reading those books. She told me she NEVER pays for a book since she can find so many free ones on BookBub.

As a disclaimer, I’ve actually used BookBub once– I lost money. I tried a few other times with other books but didn’t get accepted for those books. It seems the company gives preference to authors who offer their books through a variety of websites, not just Amazon. The rub, of course, is that while that might be more appealing for some of BookBub’s subscribers, it actually costs authors more money since not going with an Amazon exclusive means sacrificing HALF of the potential royalties.

There are dozens, even hundreds of other companies like BookBub. They offer the author a way to reach potential readers at prices that make it virtually impossible to turn writing into a profitable business. My own personal experience is that writers are better off working with Google and Amazon itself to offer targeted marketing rather than with companies who prey on authors. Think about it for a moment. These companies get paid through the backdoor for the privilege of being able to offer something free through their front door. What a concept!

Being Rational and Being Superstitious

Hello Again is my latest paranormal mystery/thriller. One aspect I explore is the thin veneer of rationality we coat ourselves with. Underneath, we haven’t changed that much from the primitive caveman who thought the gods were angry when he heard thunder. One character in Hello Again remarks that it was easy to believe in the paranormal living in a small eastern European village at the turn of the nineteenth century. It’s quite another to accept the paranormal as normal when living in a large American city at a time when NASA is recruiting people for a one-way trip to Mars.

Rational? How many sports fans won’t change from their lucky shirt if their team is on a winning streak. How many gamblers won’t change seats at the gaming table if they are winning? What about the number 13. How much do you feel like crossing the spirits and taking a chance?

Hello Again illustrates that it really doesn’t take much to cause people to fall back into a belief in the supernatural. While many people now say they are not religious, that doesn’t mean they don’t utter a silent prayer when waiting for the results of a lottery or when sitting in the waiting room of a hospital.

So, what would you do if you suddenly started receiving text messages from someone who you know is dead, especially if the technology experts say they can’t explain it?

 

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Making a Pact with the Devil to Become President

It’s really struck me during this long long campaign that to paraphrase a well known movie line, Americans can’t handle the truth, and they certainly don’t want to hear it. So, let’s assume we gave truth serum to the major candidates just before they spoke. What would we hear?

TRUMP: Look I’m all about myself and power. I’ll say anything you want to hear if you vote for me. I don’t have any fixed positions or policies because all I really care about is becoming President. You know my father never thought highly about me, and this will show him wherever in hell he is that I am somebody and people love me. I’m the classic schoolyard bully. I’ll stomp all over anyone who disagrees with me, and women are just here for my amusement and pleasure. When they start to age, I trade up. Vote for me. Trust me, I am whatever you want me to be. Are you a racist? Well then, listen to my coded language. Are you very afraid of minorities taking your jobs? Listen to my coded language —we’ll make America white again.

CLINTON: I know I am a lousy politician, so I try to be very careful what I say. I poll test everything to make sure the most people will approve of my policy. I’ve always wanted to be President, and Mrs. Roosevelt has always been my personal hero—- Men are pigs –Look at Bill. I realize I’m about as exciting as oatmeal, but I’m running as the first female President. I happen to have the worst luck in the world. Who would have thought the first time I ran that I’d run into the first black President. This time, I banked on my experience. I figured I’d run against Jeb Bush, and the public could listen to us have really long discussions about the merits of our wonkie ideas. I’d win because I’ve always been the smartest kid in the class. So, what do I get instead? I’m running against a comic book figure, a cartoon that struts and acts politically incorrect and brings up all Bill’s bimbos. How do you fight against someone like that?

The problem is that the Republicans have poisoned the well for me for so long that my negatives are about as bad as Trump’s. The difference is that his voters are enthusiastic and will turn out while many Democrats will hate me so much for Bernie losing that they may stay home in protest. Why can’t I have any luck?

BERNIE: Look, I’m not a fool. I know I can’t give people what I promise because we’d need to have both the Senate and the House to pull it off. I need people to keep contributing money because my campaign is burning through the money much too fast. I want to have as many delegates in my pocket as I can so we can force changes in the Democratic platform. I realize it won’t matter in the short run because Hillary won’t really push for these things. Here’s my deep down secret: I’m praying the FBI indicts Hillary BEFORE the convention. Then I get the super delegates and I become the nominee.

The one thread that runs through all these candidates’ real thoughts is that they have to give Americans what they want to hear. It’s almost like a parent who can’t bear to tell little Carol or Billy that there really is no Santa Claus. Maybe, the parent thinks, we can wait another year. After all little America is less than three hundred years old.

Personally, I think Bernie might give Trump more of a battle than Hillary because ideas that Americans once scorned as socialist or communist now don’t seem that bad. Also, his voters are as fired up as those of Trump. Would Trump smear him as “Bernie the little Jew communist”? Sure, but medicare for all is not a bad platform to run on.

No Longer the Apple of Our Eye: The Fall of Apple

I’ve been part of the PC industry since it began. Many of my friends remember me managing one of the first computer stores. I became a technology analyst and followed the industry for many years. I even wrote a college textbook on PCs as well as teaching computer science to college students. So, I do know something about PCs. I’ve not only been an Apple dealer, but I’ve owned virtually all its major computing products from the Apple II. That includes the first Macintosh, MacBooks, the iMac, iPads, etc.

So, it’s with a sad heart that I say what the financial press has already been reporting. The best years of Apple are behind it. Having said that, I have to also say that my wife and I are an Apple family. What I observed as a technology analyst was that companies that are led by visionaries and then turned over to bean counters lose their technology edge. Related closely to that truism is that once a company reaches a certain size, it struggles to maintain a decent rate of return because it continually needs new breakthrough products. To put it another way, Apple might make its products too good. They tend to last longer than PCs, and they require a lot less support. The result is that it has become harder and harder for Apple to convince its customers to upgrade. That’s true not just for its computers, but it’s also true for its iPhones.

Steve Jobs did fail on occasion, but he also had enough vision to create products people didn’t even know they’d want or need. Where is the next breakthrough Apple product coming from? Apple explored the TV marketplace, but there are technological constraints that prevent it from coming out with something that would revolutionize TV, especially since there is a movement toward decoupling cable channels and moving toward a wild west type free for all where people simply will decide on which Internet channels they want. How can you bring order to such a chaotic universe? I doubt Apple can.

Automobiles was another area Apple was exploring. Now we learn BMW is going its own way on electric cars and other major manufacturers are moving ahead in that area as is Google. Apple won’t be able to control this market because it is primarily a hardware company and it can’t mandate that everyone confirm to its standard and use its software.

I certainly lay part of the problem on Tim Cook. By all counts he’s a great guy—certainly much more human than Jobs and less likely to make his subordinates cry. He’s outspoken and apparently on the right side of all the current hot button issues from gay rights to computer privacy. But, his entire history has been as a supply chain guy, a person acknowledged as an expert in cutting costs and increasing efficiency. That’s wonderful, and every hardware company needs someone at the VP level with those skills, but it’s a forrest and not a tree CEO who is needed to give a company direction and keep it ahead of the curve.

What Jobs managed to do was to make Apple “cool.” Remember all the Apple fanboys who would line up whenever a new product was released. Now it tends to be people of my generation. The college age kids have moved on to Android products. Since Samsung has been in a long-standing battle with Apple over intellectual property rights, its no surprise that the Korean company’s products more and more resemble iPhones but cost less.

Now Apple is sitting on a lot of cash. What should it do and what is it likely to do? I suspect it will buy back some of its stock to maintain its price. I also suspect we’ll see Apple offer “new” products that offer a few new features, but that won’t be enough to maintain its leadership position. What it does need to do but probably won’t is to use some of its cash to buy new technology by acquiring some cutting edge startups. If it can’t come up with new visionary products from the CEO’s office, then it might have to do so from some of the young geniuses whose companies they buy.

The problem, of course, is that startups work quite differently from a company Apple’s size. They make decisions quickly and then create products rapidly. What happens, though, in a company Apple’s size when heads of different units compete for resources? Without someone like a Steve Jobs at the top who is capable of relying on some mysterious gut reaction to determine which product will be successful, Apple probably will rely on a bean counter who probably will create a very detailed spreadsheet that weighs the pluses and minuses of each potential new product. That might be an ideal way of narrowing a list of potential colleges to attend, but it’s no way to select the product that could make or break a giant corporation.

Apple will not disappear. It still makes solid products that its customers love. The problem is attracting new customers in sufficient numbers to meet its financial goals and satisfy the financial community. Its recent history has been to create products that cannibalize older products (Who needs an iPod now that there’s an iPhone and an iCloud?) When my generation finally rides off into the sunset, where will Apple be?