Who is Mark A. Martinez, and why should I care what you have to say?
Q: Who are you?
A: I am Professor and Chair of political science at California State University, Bakersfield. I did my graduate work at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I was able to publish a journal article as a graduate student, while achieving an incredible level of mediocrity.
I also taught at the graduate level in Mexico, at the Universidad Autonoma de Queretaro, where I gave the first courses ever offered there on Foreign Policy and International Relations.
I fancy myself a pseudo political economist (because I don’t do formulas), have written specialized reports for both large private firms and non-profit groups, and serve as an unpaid campaign advisor to anyone who thinks I have anything to offer. Even with the publication of The Myth of the Free Market: The Role of the State in a Capitalist Economy, and a few other academic contributions, I consider my publication record mediocre, at best. I have no regrets. I prefer spending time with my kids, I like doing radio, and I think offering my time to local groups is important.
Q: Any special recognitions?
I have received no special recognitions, have never been offered exciting positions in places like the White House, have no prestigious internships in my resume and, apart from several incredibly fabulous and lucrative job offers in the private sector (which I turned down; and regularly regret on payday), I have lived a relatively non-descript life. In the end, I consider myself fortunate to be where I am today. I really am a case study in persistence over talent.
Q: Why Should I Listen to You?
A: My friends and colleagues tell me I can claim some genuine expertise on political development, international relations, American Foreign Policy, political economy and globalization … you know, all the stuff people who call in to my radio program rarely ask me about. I also think I’m kind of funny when I explain how the world really works to conservatives who like to pretend they’re open-minded.
However, what people don’t know is that my real expertise lies in my knowledge of Oakland Raiders history, a team that never ceases to disappoint.
Q: Do you support a political party?
A: I am a registered Democrat, and consider myself a “Liberal” in the nastiest sense Conservatives would like to make the definition out to be. I say this because I live in Bakersfield, which was recently rated California’s #1 most conservative city and ranked #8 nationwide. However, I have no problem saying I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980, and that I voted for John McCain in the open primaries California had in 2000.
Q: Wait, you’re confusing me. You voted for Reagan, but consider yourself a Liberal?
I was 19 then. Chalk it up to one of those “youthful indiscretions” republicans like to fall back on whenever they get caught with their pants down (literally).
I know, I know, what about McCain? Look, John McCain was running against George W. Bush in the republican primaries in 2000. I liked the idea of giving John McCain another vote, especially in Kern County. As well, there was a time when John McCain was somewhat sane.
Q: Your book is about “the myth of the free market” … do you believe in free markets or are you a closet communist?
I support the idea of the market that Adam Smith discussed. Most people who have never read Adam Smith but like quoting him anyways have no idea what that means. For these people you need to read my book.
More specifically, bad things happen when stupid people hide behind the “it was legal” argument. And I am particularly miffed at those who push bad legislation that protects the “it was legal” mentality. “It was legal” is not the basis for justice, and should not be the foundation of anyone’s moral code. Yet, conservatives tend to be the one’s defending those who inject this claim most often, while sponsoring favorable legislation for those who don’t need it. The guilty ones know what I’m talking about here and are probably fuming by now.
Q: What’s “favorable legislation”?
Favorable legislation – like the elimination of the Estate Tax, the S&L bailout, Bush’s proposed social security overhaul, and the Bankruptcy bill – support the narrow interests of privileged groups, who already have much, and work against the interests of America’s working class. Can anyone explain to me why Bill Gates needs another $5 million in tax breaks? Favorable legislation flourished under the Bush administration. It does this country, and capitalism, a disservice. I may be wrong, but I don’t think Steve Jobs was sitting around his garage waiting for the capital gains tax to be passed before he had the “Apple Idea.”
Hence, I am a Keynesian who supports regulatory capitalism – the SEC, FDIC, Glass-Steagall (repealed), etc. – which makes sure capitalism works for everyone. For hard core conservatives, who have no idea what any of this means, the goal is to protect the integrity of the market. In the end, getting hard core conservatives to understand any of this doesn’t matter because liberals are used to working for goals that benefit everyone, whether the market beneficiaries understand it or not. Listen to the program and you’ll understand the confusion.
Q: Are you religious?
I’m not sure what this has to do with the price of tea in China but … I was born Catholic, and will die a Catholic. But that doesn’t mean I’m a good Catholic, or a bad Catholic (although I probably tilt to the latter). Sometimes I feel that I should go to mass every Sunday, but don’t because I remember what the Bible says about hypocrisy. I try to read the Bible and understand what it means for everyone. I also pray. But I don’t believe prayer should be in schools, and believe “under God” should be removed from the pledge of allegiance. That means I actually respect and believe in the ideas behind the Constitution. And here lies the problem. For the wingnuts there is no compromise on these and other issues because religion deals in absolutes. For them, you’re either “with me or against me.” This mentality creates ridiculous standards for everyone.
The real world is full of grey areas, like my interpretation of the Bible versus, say, Pat Robertson’s interpretation. So, for example, if I read the Bible correctly, Pat Robertson’s going to Hell (but I’ll pray for him anyways). And on the other side of the coin, I’m pretty well sure that if George Bush gets into the Stadium of Heaven I’ve got Box Seats. But make no mistake about it, I don’t think being a believer makes me better than anyone else and don’t believe us Catholics are the only one’s going to Heaven. In fact, I can see a few atheists and agnostics in Heaven, and even a few Baptists … yes, the gay Baptists too. See what I mean about not being a good Catholic?
Q: Where do you get your position on religion?
My position on religion is drawn from the historical lessons of Europe, which teaches us about the political inferno that comes with believing in absolutes. Recall that Europe was home to the Inquisition – that period when everyone was sure God was on “their” side – and, more recently, Europe was the center of the political cults called fascism and communism. If anyone knows anything about the dangers of absolutism and extremism it’s Europe.
So I, like most early “Americans” who fled the religious wars and the persecution of political enemies in Europe, believe religion is best left to the individual, and does not belong in the public square. Our Founding Fathers got it right. In the end, God can do his own bidding and does not require – and, I’m sure, does not appreciate – hypocritical sycophants going to public extremes in His name.
Q: If you believe you have a mediocre academic record why waste time on radio instead of going after peer-reviewed academic articles?
A: Peer review is a tough row to hoe. Peer reviewers say nasty things about what you write, even if it’s good. I don’t like that. And besides, I prefer to be called an idiot to my face, or at least on air, where I can challenge callers to a duel.
Seriously, a strong academic scholarship record would be nice, and might even bring accolades. But one of the things I am consistent about is the need to participate in the system – in any fashion. So when I was asked about hosting a radio program, I scanned the media horizon, saw radio dominated by right wing nutcases, and felt the “…you’re your money where your mouth is …” mantra blaze across my forehead. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those superior talents that can juggle many commitments and excel at any one.
Finally, I do radio because I can say more on air than I can in the classroom. I can actually tell someone that they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. That’s fun. Thank God for the 1st Amendment.
Q: If I really want to learn more about international relations and political economy, beyond the blogs and TV sound bytes, what should I read?
A: For starters, I have been a regular subscriber to both Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy , and find their reviews to be excellent and very accessible for non-experts who want to know what’s going on. I especially enjoy reading The Atlantic Monthly and actually go out of my way to make time to read this every month. If you want to get really deep, go to my recommended books section on my university web page (oops, still not up). Whatever you do, don’t go to the top scholarly journals in the field of political science. Concept, methods, and theory do not make for good dinner conversation.
Q: Why don’t you use your Mother’s maiden name, as do scholars in Latin America?
A: First, I’m not from Latin America. Second, everyone would then know the password to my bank account (oops).
Q: OK, so we listen to you. Who do you draw your information from?
A: I draw from newspapers, television, and the web. I love Paul Krugman, and will shamelessly steal his ideas from time to time. To be sure, I attribute when I can, but I’ve used his stuff so often that after a while I sometimes forget where I got it from. I like reading Kevin Drum’s Washington Monthly and get a kick out of the stuff posted by Daily Kos. I also enjoy reading the Economist’s View, Joe Conason, Brad DeLong, Joshua Micah Marshall (of Talking Points Memo), and try to watch Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. I also listen to Rush Limbaugh so I know the Right’s talking points or, when I need a laugh, I watch Bill O’Reilly. Incredibly, he does get a few things right, when he isn’t pandering to his Fox crowd. But then again, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
And, for the record, I watched FOX News on election night 2008. It was fun watching Brit Hume and the crew try and act professional as they were getting their legacy handed to them. Unfortunately, the FOX News Clown Show continues, and they’re going after Obama hard.
Q: So, can I audit your classes and give you a hard time?
A: If you have listened to my program, read my blog, and have read through all of this Q & A – and you still want more – I have to believe you have mental problems, and are probably a stalker. So the answer is, “Yes” … as long as you pay the fees, do the work and follow classroom protocol. Incredibly, students prefer to go to class and learn, rather than live in a radio talk show environment. I like to protect this environment. If this is beyond you, call the program and give me a hard time. We are all diminished if we remain unchallenged in our lives.