Thomas R. Marshall, who was famous for nothing else, including being Woodrow Wilson’s Vice President, once said: “What this country needs is a good 5¢ cigar.” It was not meant literally, but was a sarcastic remark designed to lampoon some of our windbag senators who were constantly waxing eloquent about what this country needs. Even though it was a toss-off snide comment, people latched on to this quote and it is now part of American folklore. There are worse things to be remembered for, and most Vice Presidents don’t say a damned thing anyone remembers, including their names. Recalling this statement got all of us here at wondering what else this great nation needs. Here’s the list:

A good 5¢ cigar still sounds like a dandy idea. Nothing like a good old stinky cigar to get a rise out of the smoking police. Why pass up an opportunity to annoy the annoying for a lousy nickel?

A reliable small airplane to ferry our rock stars around safely. What is it with rock & roll stars and rickety old Piper Cubs? You never hear of corporate CEOs going down in flames in their small private jets, more’s the pity.

A normal, straight-ahead cable news show. Does every talking head blowhard have to constantly threaten to pop a blood vessel bleating about some made-up nonsense that means nothing to anyone? Is everything a dire emergency? When a guy is screaming all the time, how can anyone tell what’s important to this lunatic? The sky is not falling and life as we know it is in no danger of disappearing anytime soon. On the other hand, it is pretty entertaining placing bets on which one of these dim clowns will drop dead of a stroke first, hopefully on camera.

An honest Congress. If we pay these people more, don’t allow them to accept campaign contributions of more than 50 bucks and make them pass an entrance exam, psychological screening and an extensive background check like the ones we administer to police officer candidates, just maybe we can attract people who are not in the pockets of lobbyists and corporations.

A decent railroad system. How can anyone write a good country song without the lonesome wail of a train whistle? What were we thinking when we started dismantling America’s railroads? Tandem 18 wheelers offer a very limited inspiration for country songwriters. The railroads don’t even have to carry anything, just chug away in the distance to reassure us.

A replacement for Vanna White on “Wheel of Fortune.” Sorry Vanna, but your vowel selling days are numbered. America needs a new airhead babe to turn the letters on the simple puzzles that seem to stump no one but the actual contestants on the show.

A national holiday in August. There must be some famous dead American who was born in August. A decent public relations campaign could make a case for even the dullest and most marginal of heroes to fill a void in the dog days of summer. There’s always Doc Holliday of the Gunfight at the OK Corrall fame, born August 14, 1851. Sure it’s a stretch, what with the guy being a gambler, gunfighter and heavy drinker, but what the heck, more people know who he was than they know most presidents’ names. We can even give it  cool name to get ourselves another 3-day weekend at a time of the year when we really need it; “The Doc Holliday Holiday.”

A good mild stun gun. The people who accost us with annoying sales spiels, unwanted intrusions into our privacy or those who feel a compulsion to berate total strangers about their personal habits or vices may richly deserve to be shot dead, but that would only incur legal troubles and a high body count for which society is unprepared. A very slight jolt from a stun gun would go a long way towards restoring good manners and a civil society. Of course for extreme cases, a reliable hig-powered revolver remains the deterrent of choice.

A good $1 cup of coffee. Once corporations got hold of our coffee, we were doomed to $5 concoctions of semi-caf, frappe-whipped, latte hazelnut swill having very little to do with a decent cup of coffee. When smoking a cigarette and perusing the Racing Form, there is no substitute.

3-D radio.

Robot dogs. Why not? They can be programmed to be just as loyal as the real thing, to lick your face and to fetch stuff for you. No shopping for Alpo, no cleaning up dog crap, no humping your leg and no frustrating attempts to train a very dumb animal to do anything but stare at you in optimistic anticipation, of exactly what you have no clue since you have a human brain. Another plus is that robot dogs will never get sick and never die, eliminating expensive veterinarian bills and ridiculous pet cemeteries. And to think that scientists are wasting their time trying to cure cancer rather than building us robot dogs, and the government does nothing about it!

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