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In 2001, Ian Frazier wrote delightfully for this magazine about a small, seemingly manageable problem that blighted his and our world.

“Let us turn, for a moment,” he said, “to the problem of plastic bags stuck in trees.”

I will not ruin the tale. You should read it.

But it is surprising to see what begins as a fascination—I believed this would turn into a ruminative essay very much of the internet era on the beauty of trees, or how we need to reconnect in some way or, I don’t know, childhood—actually contain such oomph as “…and a movie called Blue in the Face, a paean to Brooklyn starring Harvey Keitel and Roseanne Barr, featured a brief appearance by me talking about how much I don’t like bags in trees.”

The part that got me, I suppose, about this whole essay was the friendship. Frazier writes about how gathering plastic bags, taking them down from trees, has become a method more pleasant “than golf” for seeing acquaintances.

“We’re planning road trips to other cities—there are tons of bags in trees, I noticed, in downtown Baltimore—and next spring we’ll be traveling to Los Angeles to provide bag-snagging support to the Friends of the Los Angeles River when they have their annual river cleanup day,” he writes.

I found myself surprised to be jealous. Did I want to become a “bagger” too? Criss-crossing the country with a metal pole, taking down plastic bags, for some reason appeals at the moment—maybe it is only the fall, in which trees feel especially radiant and recklessly underappreciated. But I suspect it is more the casual nature of the whole interaction; the hopefulness of believing in solvable problems and friendly service.

One time, an older man—the kind who believes in justice and peace in the world through action—told me that, when disheartened, you can always pick up trash off the ground. If you pick one piece of trash, you have done something. And this will make you, he said, feel a bit better.

It is, on a good day, good advice, and on a bad day (perhaps in a world so decidedly evil, of late), the kind of advice that makes your eyes roll. If it’s the former day, you might enjoy Frazier’s strolling essay. If it’s not, here is some analysis of last night’s debate.

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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