Monday, March 7, 2022


Those who play Lotería and support Ukraine's resistance against Russia understand why this is awesome. A special game should be set created and sold with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as the cover guy. Kudos to Lalo Alcaraz for creating this ...

- Mark


My latest article published in the Bakersfield Californian yesterday ...

Almost 60 years ago President John F. Kennedy was faced with the Cuban Missile Crisis. Alarmed over the Soviet Union’s placement of nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba, Kennedy imposed a naval blockade around Cuba which ended a crisis many believed would start World War III, or a nuclear exchange.

The Cuban Missile Crisis is instructive today because the U.S. is currently trying to force Russia out of strategically significant Ukraine. While the political players have changed – communist Russians replaced by a kleptocratic dictator – Russia’s objectives are again tied to broader geostrategic concerns. Unfortunately for Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the threats he sees are the product of a dictator’s delusional fantasies.

There’s no Cold War. Ukraine, unlike Cuba in 1962, wants nothing to do with Russian security obsessions. Perhaps more importantly, Vladimir Putin and his billionaire oligarchs have gotten fabulously rich playing in an international community made stable by a remarkably durable post-war world order created by a complex set of U.S.-led political, military, and economic alliances.

Put another way, Putin’s acting like a paranoid strongman from another era, complete with sycophantic oligarchs too self-serving to discourage his geostrategic delusions. The oligarchs inability to reign in Putin is a product of crushing tyranny at home and incremental developments around the globe which has Putin believing he’s smarter than he is.

Among these developments include how Putin’s aggressive political gambles in Georgia (2008), Crimea (2014), and eastern Ukraine (2014) paid off. In each of these instances Putin understood Western allies wouldn’t have the stomach to back up U.S. threats because of how both Presidents Bush and Obama bungled America’s post-9/11 responses in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush’s war of aggression and Obama’s nation-building failed so miserably their blustering threats over Putin’s land grabs were effectively ignored.

Simply put, America had a credibility gap.

Putin’s also been buoyed by the ascent of the dictators. Kim Jung Un, Xi Jinping, Jair Bolsonaro and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (among others) have created a sense around the world that democracy’s in trouble. Putin, in turn, believes democracies are too weak to respond to “muscular” policies from the world’s wannabe biker guys.

Perhaps the most disturbing development is what Robert Mueller characterized as Putin’s successful “interference” in America’s 2016 elections. What Putin got in return paid off in spades.

Because Putin’s position is strengthened every time Western alliances are weakened, his global hand was enhanced when Donald Trump applauded Brexit, undermined NATO unity by contemplating leaving the alliance after complaining about “deadbeats” (an untrue characterization), sabotaged the Trans-Pacific Partnership and pulled America out of the Iranian nuclear deal. But Putin really profited when Trump turned Ukrainian policy over to Rudy Giuliani and crafted pro-Russian policies his own national security advisors, Fiona Hill and John Bolton, have made clear undermined America’s security interests.

These geostrategic developments enhanced Russia’s position globally (while diminishing America’s). Putin’s meddling in American politics really paid off when his political avatar, Donald Trump, tried to extort Ukraine’s President Zelensky for already agreed upon weapons by asking for a personal “favor” – an investigation into Joe Biden’s son. For his troubles Trump would secure his first impeachment.

Trump’s national security advisor for Europe and Russia, Fiona Hill, saw through all of this and pointed out trying to extort President Zelensky –as Trump pursued Russian-friendly policies, while lavishly praising Putin – effectively told Russia “Ukraine was [their] playground.”

Putin understood how these developments were augmented by America’s growing political divide domestically, which was inflamed by the attempted overthrow of America’s democracy on January 6th. Specifically, Putin learned millions of Americans have absolutely no problem abandoning America’s constitutional principles.

America’s growing political divide combined with the GOP’s cult of personality obsession reinforces Putin’s hand on many levels. A divided America – which the “Big Lie” and Trump’s praise for Putin’s Ukrainian invasion contribute to – ensures America’s Ukrainian response will be relatively muted.

This is unfortunate because as Fiona Hill points out, “The polarization of American society has become a national security threat, acting as a barrier to collective action” against legitimate external threats.

The world is now confronted with a genuine crisis in Ukraine that could spin out of control quickly. With Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq in America’s shadow, blustering macho buffoonery can no longer carry the moment with our allies. Reckless wars from our past, coupled with a divided America gripped in a toxic cult of personality environment, have created a precarious moment in our time.  

Incredibly, while past failed military engagements and the coup attempt inspired by the “Big Lie” have stained American prestige, know the world is once again looking to the U.S. for leadership. This is a good thing.

With sanctions applying pressure, air space cut off and Russian oligarchs seeing their assets seized around the world, Putin cannot be pleased knowing Ukrainians are preparing for a drawn-out urban warfare scenario – just as supplies begin arriving from Europe. Let’s remember the 13 days in October 1962 ended precisely because alliances, informed negotiations, and diplomatic entreaties – not always on the front pages – worked.

Expect these dynamics, along with the institutional relationships being rebuilt by Western leaders, to have a similar impact. Bet on it.

Mark A. Martinez, Ph.D., is professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at CSU Bakersfield. 

- Mark

Monday, June 28, 2021


 Critical Race Theory isn't that complicated. It's simply saying that we have a set of laws... that don't always get applied across the board equally. Seriously. It's that simple.



If you're looking for a good book that explains how the systematic exclusion of people of color was made possible under the law you can read Ira Katznelson's book, When Affirmative Action Was White

- Mark

Thursday, March 25, 2021


Since July 2020, I’ve served as a co-chair - with colleagues Traco Matthews, Dr. Michael Burroughs, and NaTesha Kindred Johnson - of the Bakersfield Police Department's (BPD) reform initiative. Over the past six months we've been working with a dedicated team of 26 community-minded individuals, broken up into four committees.

Made up of four committees and a team of 26 dedicated community-minded individuals, we officially submitted our report and its recommendations to the Bakersfield (California's 7th largest city) City Council and the BPD this past Friday (March 19). The reform and trust-building process is just beginning.

The Bakersfield Police Department-Community Collaborative report-recommendations can be found by clicking here.

- Mark