Spring 2017 fundraiser


You know how some days you turn on NPR or settle in to watch something nice and educational on PBS, and they hit you with one of those pledge drives? And you’re like “aw, man, I just want some content, man, get on with it.” But they don’t get on with it, and you just sit there counting the minutes until the program starts again?

Welcome to’s pledge drive.

I don’t have any totebags or t-shirts or mugs to offer (though if there are any graphic design types out there who have some free time and don’t mind working on spec, hit me up), but on the plus side this won’t take as long as the usual public broadcasting spiel.

This site has come a very long way since 2012 (!) when it was pulling about a dozen clicks a month (please don’t go back through the archives, they’re…not my best work). I know that the work I do here–covering world news, criticizing American foreign policy, writing about obscure historical events–isn’t exactly mainstream, but there’s clearly an audience for the niche this site occupies. If you’re reading this, you’re proof of that.

If you’re reading this and you’re already contributing something to keep ATTWIW in business, then you’ve got my deep gratitude. But I’d like to ask you to help me keep growing the audience for this site. Share links to the site on social media. If you know people who are interested in what’s happening in the world and you think they’d appreciate my take on the world, send them here. Tell your friends about me, in other words. I remain an SEO and social media novice, but I think word of mouth–or, uh, word of Facebook or whatever–can be a great way to keep this site growing.

If you’re reading this and you haven’t contributed, I’d like to ask you to consider jumping on board. Every little bit helps. The most direct way to contribute is via PayPal, but the most effective way is to make a monthly commitment through Patreon.

Now, I want to spend the last bit of this pitch focusing on Patreon, because a regular monthly contribution is the best way to support this site. Right now we’ve got two reward tiers for contributors at the $1/month level and at the $5/month level (I’m open to suggestions for tiers beyond that). For $1/month patrons you get access to a weekly “Ask Me Anything” feature where I’ll answer your questions (or try, anyway, depending on the topic), respond to your comments, listen to your rants, and, you know, just Be There for you. At $5/month you can request a piece on the topic of your choice and, as long as I’m not completely out of my element, I’ll put together a blog post just for you. Got something that you’ve always wondered about? Maybe you’re not sure why the Bosniaks converted to Islam under the Ottomans when most Slavic peoples remained Christian? Well, if you’re a $5/month ATTWIW patron, ask and you shall receive.

Your support is crucial to ATTWIW’s success. I can’t do this without you! I have plans for where I’d like to take things–projects (like my glossary idea that hasn’t gone anywhere because I can’t devote enough time toward it), more regular features, guest writers (?), maybe even a podcast or two–but they can only happen if the support for the site grows, and that’s where you fine people come in.

Thank you for your time, and we now return to our regular programming.

PATRON SPECIAL: Bosniaks and Islam

At Patreon, I’ve started a new feature for my $5/month supporters whereby once a week I try to dive into a question from one of them and write an essay that hopefully helps shed some light on the topic. Today I posted the first in what I hope will be a long series, in response to a question about the spread of Islam in the Balkans under Ottoman rule. I focused on the conversion of the Bosniaks:

When we consider why the Bosniaks wound up by and large converting while other Slavic peoples did not, I think the first thing we need to say is that there’s very little to no evidence of coercion. And, really, that makes sense. Why, after all, would the Ottomans have singled this one community out for coerced conversion to Islam but left Serbs, Croats, Macedonians, Greeks, Bulgarians, etc., alone to maintain their Christianity? Nobody has ever, to my knowledge, produced any evidence that the Ottomans one day said “these people, living in this one specific area, must be converted, but we’ll leave everybody else alone.”

Moreover, the pre-17th century Ottoman system actually depended on maintaining large Christian populations in the Balkans. Christian families paid extra taxes, don’t you know, and–more importantly–their male children were subject to the devşirme, the conscription program that filled the ranks of both the Ottoman bureaucracy and the Janissaries. Conscripts were forcibly converted, but if the Christians of the Ottoman Empire had all converted themselves then this critical source of manpower would have disappeared overnight, since Muslims were forbidden from enslaving other Muslims. Indeed, the Ottomans organized their empire around allowing these communities to keep their own religion and legal codes–though obviously Ottoman law superseded in the case of a conflict–in what was eventually formalized as the millet system. This wound up coming back to bite them in the imperial ass, as the millets later became vectors for the nationalist movements that wound up tearing the Empire apart.

I’m just saying, all this could be yours for a scant $5 a month. If that’s too steep, at $1 a month you can have access to my “ask me anything” feature, where I try to offer some shorter answers to your questions/comments about, well, anything.

Hi, how’s it going? Thanks for reading; attwiw wouldn’t exist without you! If you enjoyed this or any other posts here, please share widely and help build our audience. You can like this site on Facebook or follow me on Twitter as well. Most critically, if you’re a regular reader I hope you’ll read this and consider helping this place to stay alive.

A new way you can help attwiw



Astute readers may notice that there’s a new link to Amazon in the sidebar (or at the bottom of the front page on mobile). I decided to sign up for the Amazon associates program to help bring in a little more revenue to keep the site going. I don’t really have any idea how it works or even if it works, but in theory if you’re planning to do some shopping and you go through that link instead of going to Amazon’s homepage, attwiw should get a few coins for your trouble. Because is pretty limited in terms of allowing banners, all I could manage was to make that link there in extra large print.

I want to extend another thank you to those who have donated to keep the site running, either one-time via PayPal or monthly via Patreon. This is one more way you can help, and if you’re already going to buy something from Amazon anyway it won’t cost you anything other than the time it takes to come here first. Thanks again!

I need your help


Hi there. If you’re reading this then I assume you’re one of the increasing number of people who have been coming here fairly regularly to catch up on world news, bone up on some esoteric history, check out my commentary on US foreign policy, read my rants about the Democratic Party and/or my fears about Donald Trump, or some combination of those things. Thank you for reading! It is tremendously gratifying to me that this blog, which literally started with no readers in 2012, is getting an audience. This site isn’t Vox, or Slate, or anywhere near any of the other big sites–though frankly I think this place stands up to any of them in depth, if not in breadth–but with no money, no advertising apart from my overused Twitter account, and no institutional support I think it’s come a long way for a site devoted to a pretty niche-y set of topics.

I’m sure you already know that this is leading to a fundraising appeal, and believe me I don’t like writing this any more than you like reading it, but your support is critical to allowing me to keep writing here, and to keep writing in general as opposed to finding something else that might better pay the bills. I love writing, and I love writing for you, and if I weren’t the World’s Worst FreelancerTM I’m sure that I would be doing more freelance business and the financial need wouldn’t be so acute. But while I am working on not being the World’s Worst FreelancerTM anymore, it is very much a work in progress, and in the meantime the need is, in fact, acute.

So I’m asking for your help. If you enjoy this site and value the work I do here, please consider contributing something to help me keep doing it. I believe there’s a market for this website; there certainly seems to be an audience for it. It doesn’t take much; a small drop in the PayPal tip jar or (better) even a $2 or $3 per month pledge on Patreon goes a long way.

Thanks for bearing with this; I know fundraising is a drag. And again, thanks for reading and for your support.

Giving Tuesday links

Admittedly 8 PM is not the best time to be getting to this, but since the day isn’t over I’m still technically in the clear. Last year I posted a few Giving Tuesday suggestions and so I thought I might do that again this year except without all the heavy verbiage that came along with last year’s post.

First off here’s a link to all the charity posts I’ve done here in the past, which include many causes and/or charities that could still use your money.

Then there’s GiveWell, my favorite of the so-called “meta-charities,” places that use your donations to research charitable organizations and then encourage donations to the ones they rate most highly. Places like this generate a multiplier effect, meaning that every dollar you give to them can generate more than a dollar (sometimes considerably more) for the charities they promote. Other meta-charities include Innovations for Poverty Action, The Life You Can Save, and the Institute of Fundraising.

GiveDirectly is a charity that doesn’t have the name recognition of some of the old standbys like the Red Cross, but they give cash transfers directly to the poor in Kenya and Uganda. Giving people cash, amazingly enough, may be a more effective poverty-alleviation strategy than piecemeal service provision (the research on this isn’t 100% clear, though, so if you feel better donating to a service provider by all means do that). However, since GiveDirectly is served by GiveWell, if you’re thinking of donating here it might make more sense to donate to GiveWell (that multiplier effect and all).

Then there are the, as I say, old standbys, who operate in conflict zones and in the wake of natural disasters, and are working with people displaced by conflicts in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, and elsewhere. Here are some of those (I’m trying to stick to places that have four star Charity Navigator ratings):

Last, and very much least by comparison, you could also contribute to keeping this website alive. I appreciate everyone who’s dropped a little money in the PayPal jar or made a monthly commitment through Patreon (both available via the front page), but I won’t lie, more would be very welcome, especially around this time of the year. If you value the writing here and have a little extra to spare, please consider supporting this place. Thank you!

attwiw is getting a mascot

The blog will be going on a “maybe I’ll post something but probably not” hiatus for the next few days as we welcome a new puppy to our family. I want to take the opportunity to thank you for reading and ask you to consider dropping a little something in my


Or, even better, signing up for a monthly contribution at my newly revived Patreon page. I’m offering exclusive content to anybody who signs up at the $5/month level!

Thanks for your help!

bad want money