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Monday, 28 September 2009

Subverting economists' assumptions - Geelong Cats as a case study

Off the back of their great win in the Grand Final on Saturday (which I haven't yet seen as I was up to my neck in help run the first TEAR regional conference in Canberra - great turn out, great day, but that's not the point) there is discussion of the impact of the AFL salary cap on the ability of the club to hold their amazingly good team together over the next couple of years.

And that is precisely what the salary cap is designed to do. embedded in it is the assumption that the players as their value to other clubs increases as they come off contract will go for the higher value contacts that will be on offer.

The discussion in the paper suggests that this theorem might not be totally effective. There are suggestions that over the past couple of years Geelong players have settled for contracts around 20% below the market rate simply so that as a group they can continues to play together and that there was a suggestion from one of the players that they would move to reach the same outcome again for those players with contracts up for renewal this year.

A couple of things arise from this: it suggests that the experience of continuing to play in a high performance team with a good chance of a premiership is something that players are willing to trade off against maximizing their income. It also suggests that there is a high degree of mutual trust to enable them to pull this off as not everyone comes off contract at the same time.

What happens to the salary cap process if people can subvert its operation by agreeing not maximize their income as individuals but are bonded to one another because, shock horror ! they are enjoying playing football together as a team, and a particularly exciting brand of football it must be said in one of the great teams of the past couple of decades?

Sunday, 27 September 2009

The bitter logic of "staying the course"

More than 200 (British) soldiers dead in Afghanistan, and now Gordon Brown advises us that "the best way to honour their memory is to see the course through". I don't know which particular "course" Gordon has in mind – protecting democracy, training the Afghan army, defeating the Taliban, talking to the Taliban, or just fighting them so they don't turn up on British shores – but this is straight out of the George W Bush tear bucket.
Not so long ago, I seem to remember, Bush was telling us that we would be betraying the American dead in Iraq if we gave up the fight. We owed it to the dead to go on killing more Iraqis. And now we owe it to the dead to go on killing more Afghans. Who, of course, will go on killing us. Is there no end to this madness?
(Robert Fisk: "Why These Deaths hit home as hard as the Somme" The Independent

Love and Forgiveness

And this, then,
is the vision of that Heaven
of which we have heard,
where those who love
each other have forgiven
each other, where, for that,
the leaves are green,
the light a music in the air,
and all is unentangled,
and all is undismayed.
- Wendell Berry,
from his poem "To My Mother"

Monday, 21 September 2009

Looking forward - looking back in Timor Leste

Talking with friends from Timor Leste recently who are old enough to remember the Indonesian occupation and the violence surrounding the vote for independence I was struck by both their passion to build a new nation (looking forward) and a passion that those who committed atrocities should face justice and a public accountting for their activities. This is a view not shared by the current political leadership wo are urging everyone to simply look forward.

For a detailed look at the public record on the case of the Suai church massacre, where a militia leader was arrested and then released under political pressure from Indonesia into Indonesian custody see

September 2009:
Maternus Bere's crimes, indictment, arrest and illegal release, reactions from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Fongtil, Indonesian activists, the President of the Court of Appeal and others and photos of protest at Indonesian Embassy in Dili. Also no confidence motion, local and international media on this case. Mos iha lian Tetum. Also media articles about the case and background information on the Suai Church Massacre from CAVR and Geoffrey Robinson.

The War on Terrorism ...rethinking its significance

Revisiting Lee Griffith's eerily prescient book The War on Terrorism and the Terror of God, written before the attacks on Washington and New York on 11 September 2001 I keep being struck by the power of many of his insights. This is a fine piece of theology weaving together social sciences, history and reflection on scripture.

Massacre on a massive scale is not a sign of age-old hatreds that have prevented community formation; it is a sign of new hatreds that have been generated to disrupt and destroy communities that have already existed. Why? Because stron, pluralistic communities constitute a threat to the unhindered exercise of political and military power. Terror can be both reflective of community disintegration and a means of fostering further disintegration by leaving people feeling unsafe, suspicious and disconnected. Grotesque acts of terrorism that entail the dismemberment of human bodies are sometimes used to communicate the message that the community itself is being dismembered. (pp 46-7)

We must remember Jesus. Wherever and whenever Jesus is not remembered , those who claim the name of Christian have shown a special proclivity to give allegiance to race or ethnicity, wealth or weaponry, empire or liberation army ... When there is failure to remember the one who died on the cross, crucifixion follows. ... To remember Jesus, bread is broken, cup is shared, community is formed. All violence is an attack on community. All violence by Christians is also an attack upon the memory of Jesus. (p 48)

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Echoes of Christendom or a call to a new world?

The impending "Back to Church" Sunday scheduled for this weekend shows how deeply engrained the Christendom mindset is in Christian churches in Australia.

It shows up in a couple of ways.

One is in the assumption that people have strayed from the church when the empirical reality is that for those aged under forty probably a majority have never engaged with the church whether as a community or institution in any significant way. How can they come back if they never have been there in the first place?

The other is the tacit assumption that is a close, not to be questioned link between being Christian and being an Australian and that the church is a central element in maintaining social order.

What are we calling them back to? Notice the work "back" - it carries the undercurrent of reference to returning to a past institution, a retreat from the world, rather than calling them to an adventure, a movement towards a future that is subversive of the world of violence and injustice.

Simon Barrow in his latest column on the Ekklesia website A Different Way of Seeing the World expresses the sense of excitement that Christians should be about when he speaks of a ... vision of shalom presented by Isaiah and by the Psalmist reveals the opposite of what now is, in the form of a promise. A world of oppression, injustice and suffering is neither inevitable nor necessary. To defy the order of death and to envision a realm of peace based on the restoring of right relationships among people, with the natural world and with God is – despite all appearances to the contrary – to go with the final grain of the universe as sheer gift.

If only we could recognise it, say the biblical writers, there is a divine reversal going on. When mercy is shown, when the stranger is welcomed, when right is done, when abusive power is resisted, when the hungry are offered food, the prisoners release and the homeless shelter – in those moments of faithfulness to God’s underlying purposes, despite the suffering and brutality around us, a new world beckons.

This is about a movement not an institution - a movement like Micah Challenge with its Voices for Justice.