Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya (for a pandemic)

This is based on a recipe from my favorite Louisiana cookbook, “The New Orleans Cookbook,” Rima Collin & Richard Collin. I’ve simplified it a little bit but it is still delicious. 


2 T vegetable oil

2 lbs boneless chicken thighs or chicken tenders

2 onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch scallions, white parts only, chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed
3 T chopped parsley

1 lb andouille sausage, cut into quarters and chopped

1 T salt
2 bay leaves
1 t thyme
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t chili power
1/2 t basil
1/4 t cayenne

2 cups white or brown rice
3 cups water (3.5 for brown rice)

optional: 1 lb peeled shrimp


  1. In a big dutch oven, heat oil and brown chicken over medium high heat. Remove chicken to separate bowl.
  2. Add vegetables and cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add andouille sausage and spices, cook 5 minutes more.
  4. Add rice without water and cook for 5 minutes, stirring and coating rice well with cooking liquid.
  5. Add water and add back chicken. Bring to a boil. Set heat to lowest setting and cover. Cook one to two hours, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender and chicken has begun to fall apart. (Brown rice takes longer than white rice.) 
  6. If using, add peeled uncooked shrimp for the last 15 minutes of cooking. Separate any large pieces of chicken with a fork. Serve hot. 

How to get news in the time of coronavirus

I wrote this column for the Tampa Bay Times about news consumption; it subsequently appeared on PolitiFact and It begins:

It’s seldom been harder to discern what’s true, whom to trust and what’s reliable than in the age of the coronavirus pandemic — nor has solid information ever been as important. 

I sort out fact from fiction every day, and I want to help you do it, too. As editor-in-chief for PolitiFact, I’m monitoring a lot about COVID-19: the latest science on exposure and immunity; projected timetables for social distancing and the development of vaccines; President Donald Trump’s latest news conferences; what the nation’s governors are doing; and what’s happening with jobs, the stock market and the economy. Information is developing and changing, and there’s always something more to look at. 

Humans seek information to feel informed and safe. When there are no new developments, or important questions can’t be answered, it leaves us unsatisfied. So we keep looking for information that isn’t there, and that creates frustration. It happens to both journalists and citizens during ordinary times, but it’s intense during high-stress events such as a pandemic. 

Still, we can be savvy news consumers, and even find calm in how we engage with the news. I’m following three principles that bring order to how I approach my own news seeking. READ MORE

Fact-checking Journalism

How to Fight an Infodemic

I appeared on a podcast recently to discuss the explosion of misinformation that has followed the coronavirus pandemic. Intelligence Squared host John Donvan led myself and Professor Kate Starbird of University of Washington in a wide-ranging discussion.

Fact-checking Journalism

Celebrating International Fact-checking Day

April 2 is International Fact-checking Day, a new holiday that the International Fact-checking Network launched in 2017. We celebrate it every year at PolitiFact.

This year, I wrote a column in the context of the coronavirus, meditating on how, these days, everyday people have to fact-check their own information consumption.

Knowing whether a particular statement or claim is true or false is the foundation on which we make sound decisions for our families and about our health. It’s the basis on which we can judge our elected officials and make decisions about how to govern ourselves in a democracy.

But the true spirit of fact-checking is so much larger than that. 

We have to ask ourselves: Are we willing to use evidence, reason, science and logic to govern our actions? Or do we react on impulse and emotionally, often out of an intense flash of fear or anger? Do we use prudence and thoughtfulness to come to a decision, or do we indulge our instincts and then stick to our stance no matter what? 

It’s a critical decision, and one we each get to make daily, even hourly. 

“In the time of coronavirus, we’re all fact-checkers now”
Fact-checking Journalism

The State of PolitiFact in 2019

PolitiFact started as a politics news website in 2007, but these days, it feels more like a mission. Over the years, we’ve evolved and grown to encompass many ways of promoting information integrity. I wrote a State of PolitiFact report for the site covering our core competencies, which include:

  • Political factchecking;
  • Withstanding attacks on the media;
  • Fighting disinformation;
  • Promoting media literacy; and,
  • Working with researchers.

Read my column about PolitiFact’s work in 2019.

Poetry Travel

Ireland 2019

This summer I traveled in Ireland again with my husband Mark Holan (my third trip; his ninth). For two weeks, we toured the north and the west of Ireland. After landing in Dublin, we went north to Downpatrick, the burial place of St. Patrick, then onto Belfast for a black taxi tour and a visit to the Titanic museum. We continued north to the Antrim coast for hiking and the Giant’s causeway. We stopped to view the grave of William Butler Yeats in Drumcliff, County Sligo, before a night spent in Sligo town. Then we went on to Westport for bicycling, the Aran Islands for more hiking, Galway for book stores and then finally to Mark’s ancestral home in County Kerry. (Click a photo below to start the gallery.)

Fact-checking Journalism

Why Trump Is the Most Fact-Checked President

For The Atlantic, I wrote an essay about why fact-checkers report and write about so many of President Donald Trump’s statements.

It’s astounding even now, two years into Donald Trump’s presidency, how many things he says on a daily basis that just aren’t true.

Here are some of the president’s most frequent falsehoods: U.S. Steel is opening six plants (it’s not); Barack Obama’s administration had the same policy as Trump’s of separating children from adults at the border (it didn’t); Trump signed the largest tax cut in history (Ronald Reagan, among others, has him beat); a caravan of migrants was stirred up by Democrats offering health care and food benefits paid for by taxpayers (not quite); other countries owe the U.S. a lot of money for nato (this is false); the building of a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border is well under way (nope). None of this is true.  

Other presidents have spun whoppers to the American people for political advantage before Trump, and some of those untruths—regarding the realities of the Vietnam War, for example—were hugely consequential. READ MORE …

Miscellaneous Pop culture

Andrew Bird’s Kennedy Center Pops Concert plus my personal Top 5 Andrew Bird albums

Me: “I’m going to see Andrew Bird!”
You: “Who is Andrew Bird?”
Me: “He’s an indie rock songwriter who plays the violin.”
You: “Oh.”

Andrew Bird usually plays in late-night clubs, but in October he appeared with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center for a pops concert; also on the bill was singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane. (Kahane orchestrated Bird’s songs for the performance.) I bought tickets months in advance.

The performance cast Andrew Bird’s songs in a new light with the full orchestra filling out the songs and giving them a symphonic largeness. Some of the accompaniment was a little atonal for my taste — I would have preferred more melodic orchestration — but it still brought out the real beauty of great songs like “Pulaski at Night” and “Scythian Empires.” I love classical music and I love indie rock; I’d like to see more match-ups like Andrew at the Kennedy Center.

The night made me reflect on the five times I’ve seen Andrew Bird in concert … An earlier band called Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire in Austin at the South by Southwest music festival, probably around 1997 … At Tampa’s Straz Center in October 2012 for his album Break It Yourself … For his album Are You Serious at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.,  in April 2016 … At Maryland’s Merriweather Post Pavilion in 2017 … At the Kennedy Center Pops Concert in October 2018.

Here is my ranking of Andrew Bird’s Top 5 albums (or EPs).

5. I Want to See Pulaski at Night (2013) – The pop song perfection of “Pulaski at Night” with its lilting violin hook is nestled between soothing instrumental variations. This is a great EP for just chilling.  

4. Break It Yourself (2012) – Andrew Bird doesn’t really have “hits” per se, but the song “Eyeoneye” is a real rocker, and he played it on a late-night show or two when this album came out. The other songs are more leisurely and melodic, call it music for the planet Earth: the fragility of the natural world (“Hole in the Ocean Floor”), staving off climate change (“Desperation Breeds”), or traveling by boat (“Lusitania”) to Australia (“Fatal Shore”).

3. Armchair Apocrypha (2007) – This album has my second most-favorite song ever of Andrew BIrd’s, the thumping disco lullaby “Plasticities” with its warning to never let life’s slow unfolding lull you to sleep intellectually: “We’ll fight, we’ll fight for your music halls and dying cities/ They’ll fight for your neural walls and plasticities … precious territory.” There’s also the adventure story opening song “Fiery Crash,” the environmental warnings (again) of “Spare Ohs” (“What remains of the small flightless birds that you failed to protect?”) and the mythic galloping horse riders of “Scythian Empires.”

2. Noble Beast (2009) – So many great cuts on this one, from the mysterious sadness of “Oh No,” to the memory games of “Anonanimal,” to the pastoral longing of “Souverian.” It’s an album for sitting on a front porch at twilight on a summer’s night, sipping a cold drink.  

1. The Mysterious Production of Eggs (2005) – This is the Bird album I go back to again and again and again, because just about every song on it is so memorable and sweet. There’s my No. 1 favorite song of his, “Tables and Chairs,” a wistful love song for when the end of the world arrives. There’s the elegiac and soothing “Sovay,” there’s the pulsing syncopation (and whistling) of “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left,” there’s the child’s play marching song “Measuring Cups.” I could go on, but better that you listen yourself.

Digital Fact-checking Journalism

PolitiFact’s 2018 Lie of the Year

Here’s how this year’s ‘Lie of the Year’ story starts:

In the days after 17 people were viciously gunned down at a high school in Florida, the state’s Republican governor called for tighter gun laws and President Donald Trump hosted victims’ families in the State Dining Room.

The nation seemed steadfast in seeking answers and finding solutions.

“It’s not going to be talk like it has been in the past,” Trump said. “It’s been going on too long. Too many instances, and we’re going to get it done.”

But in the shadows, the internet engine of hoaxes and smears had started.


We also debuted the Lie of the Year on MSNBC. Here’s video

Books History Travel

Visiting Walden; Reading Walden

A lovely day trip from Boston, Walden Pond is a large, crystalline lake, surrounded by tall trees and walking paths. Henry David Thoreau lived alone near its shores in the 1840s and was inspired to write his famous work, Walden. Today, many families visit to spend time outdoors and swim in the lake, and the Massachusetts park service runs a visitors’ center nearby with information about Thoreau’s life.  A replica of the tiny house Thoreau built for himself sits close to the center; a reminder of his call to live simply.

I visited in September with friends and was captivated by Thoreau’s house. It looked surprisingly like the tiny houses of recent social movements, aimed at either helping the homeless or getting stressed-out city dwellers to downsize and simplify. Suddenly I was envious of his project to live alone by the lake. I’d never read Walden; it was time to pick up the book. 

A reproduction of Henry David Thoreau’s house at Walden. 2018 Photo by Mark Holan

Walden is a first-person account that’s part nature study, part self-help, part political critique. Thoreau meanders for long passages but then makes a sharp point that seems right on target for 2018. Most pointedly, he talks about how quests for money, property and prestige tend to complicate our lives with pointless worry.

In passage after passage, he discusses the way we mindlessly accept society’s conventions and how poorly it serves us. He calls for truth in all things; even when others disagree:

“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. I sat at a table where were rich food and wine in abundance, and obsequious attendance, but sincerity and truth were not; and I went away hungry from the inhospitable board. The hospitality was as cold as the ices.”

He emphasizes the tremendous value of reading and thought and how it strengthens the mind:

“To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that will task the reader more than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem. It requires a training such as the athletes underwent, the steady intention almost of the whole life to this object. Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.”

Even though he was alone in the woods, Thoreau did not hunt. Instead, he makes an explicit pitch for vegetarianism:

“Whatever my own practice may be, I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other when they came in contact with the more civilized.”

He sees personal health as both holistic and spiritual, which moved me deeply:

Every man is the builder of a temple, called his body, to the god he worships, after a style purely his own, nor can he get off by hammering marble instead. We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones.”

Henry David Thoreau, 1856. Daguerreotype by Benjamin D. Maxim.

Almost eerily, he seems to forecast the dangers of climate change. Thoreau made detailed studies of the pond and its depth. In his day, workers would come each winter to harvest ice by cutting away the top layer of the pond and packing the ice in straw to send to the city. Thoreau saw how the pond itself seemed to react by melting faster as its top layer was cut away:

“Who would have suspected so large and cold and thick-skinned a thing to be so sensitive? Yet it has its law to which it thunders obedience when it should as surely as the buds expand in the spring. The earth is all alive and covered with papillae. The largest pond is as sensitive to atmospheric changes as the globule of mercury in its tube.”

Later, he notes the ultimate power that the natural environment has over human life:

“The earth is not a mere fragment of dead history, stratum upon stratum like the leaves of a book, to be studied by geologists and antiquaries chiefly, but living poetry like the leaves of a tree, which precede flowers and fruit — not a fossil earth, but a living earth; compared with whose great central life all animal and vegetable life is merely parasitic.”

Thoreau is philosophical, but he alternates big thoughts with charming observations of the surrounding forest life.. Here he describes the foxes and wonders about  their motivations:

“Sometimes I heard the foxes as they ranged over the snow-crust, in moonlight nights, in search of a partridge or other game, barking raggedly and demoniacally like forest dogs, as if laboring with some anxiety, or seeking expression, struggling for light and to be dogs outright and run freely in the streets; for if we take the ages into our account, may there not be a civilization going on among brutes as well as men? They seemed to me to be rudimental, burrowing men, still standing on their defence, awaiting their transformation. Sometimes one came near to my window, attracted by my light, barked a vulpine curse at me, and then retreated.”

On the day of our visit to Walden, I spent a pleasant day on its shores with my friends and their children, eating a picnic. My partner, a serious swimmer, swam across Walden and back and wrote his own thoughts on it. Though Thoreau’s life in one way seems very long ago, in another way it’s quite immediate. Many things about Walden, both the book and the place, will stay with me.