Incompetent? Really?

December 8, 2009

CBC News – British Columbia – Jeweller who shot robber wants more gun rights.

The linked news article contains a story by the CBC about a jeweller named Dennis Galloway from Port Alberni, B.C. who used a 9-mm Beretta handgun when a robber and an accomplice entered his store, firing his entire magazine at the fleeing robber and hitting him five times in the shoulder and torso and eventually paralyzing him from the waist down.

But let’s leave aside the issue of gun rights, which is such a thorny problem that I really don’t want to end up in a discussion of it.  What I would like to discuss is the statements made by Galloway and others in the article about the gross incompetence of the police and the rampant crime in Canada.  Statements like:

“The police can’t control the crime anymore,” Dennis Galloway said. “The government isn’t controlling it anymore. We are relying on the politicians and the RCMP to take care of us — and we should all be responsible for our own safety and security.”

and some random bystander:

She agrees with Galloway on one point, however: the RCMP and the justice system in Canada are ineffective.

“Our law enforcement services are incompetent,” she said.

and Galloway again:

“I wish it had never come to this. The violence is escalating. In Canada, we don’t want that, but it’s here. And that’s scary. What do you do? Do you just lie down and let the criminals run the country?”

And here I thought that crime rates in Canada had been holding steady or declining for the last decade or so (at least).  Well, hey, I’m a scientist, and I like data.  Maybe I could find some?  But I’m sure that would be really difficult, and much harder than typing, say, “Canadian crime statistics” into Google… right?
Huh.  Will you look at that?  From Stats Canada, on the release of the 2008 Police-reported crime statistics figures (July 21st, 2009):

This was the fifth consecutive annual decline in police-reported crime. There were about 77,000 fewer reported crimes in 2008, including 28,000 fewer thefts of $5,000 and under, 22,000 fewer break-ins and 20,000 fewer motor vehicle thefts.

 Police-reported crime rate and Crime Severity Index, Canada

Crime severity was down in virtually all provinces. The largest decline was reported in Manitoba, where the Police-reported Crime Severity Index (PRCSI) was down 14%. The one notable exception was a 7% increase in the PRCSI in Prince Edward Island.

Note, of course, that this is the Police-Reported Crime Statistics.  This is important because criminologists are careful to point out that there is a “dark figure of crime”, which is the gap between the reported number of crimes and the actual number of crimes.

However, even if you believe that the PRCS figures are bunk, you would need an actual argument to back that up, and not just a “gee, the police are incompetent” blanket statement that tars the entire Canadian law enforcement community with a brush that they simply do not deserve.  Now, to be sure, the actual issue is more complex than even I’ve let on here.  For example, the statements by Galloway and bystanders might be more relevant if they were to complain about the local crime rate in Port Alberni, which does seem relatively high from the little information I could find on it with a casual search (e.g. this from UBC).  But I cannot abide sweeping statements that deride the police forces that (for better or for worse) try to keep us safe without even a shred of knowledge or effort behind them.

And the CBC’s response to these rants?  A single quote by the RCMP officer they interviewed by this story, stuck in as the last line:

Oumilouski said the force is working on the problem.

“And time is on our side. Our conviction rate is going up and our crime rates are going down.”

Really, truly, they are.

(Oh, and for a laugh, check out the comments).


Where are the NDP on science?

October 5, 2008

I’ve been paying attention to Canadian politics as I look forward to exercising my democratic rights ina couple of weeks.  I’ve never been seriously interested in the NDP, for the simple reason that they never seemed to be in a position to take power, but with the Liberals melting down in the polls recently, I’ve come to view the NDP as a serious contender for (at least) the opposition.  Since I would normally vote Liberal, this now leaves me pondering my choices more carefully.

To help figure out what I’m going to do, I sat down tonight to review the platforms of both the Liberals and the NDP.  Mr. Layton’s was interesting, with many ideas on important issues like climate change, the economy, and so on.  But if you’ve read this blog for any time at all, you’ll know that I’m a Ph.D student in Biology, and that science is very important to me.  So what is the NDP stance on science and scientific research in Canada, you ask?

Beats me.

The NDP platform is weirdly vague to begin with.  But doing a search through the document reveals a single mention of the word “science”, and that’s in regards to climate-change.  Searching for “research” leads to such vague platitudes as:

[we will…]  Encourage the best young minds to stay here in Canada by increasing funding for university and college-based research, and for graduate and post-graduate studies.


[we will…] Introduce measures to ensure that new drugs are evaluated through evidence-based research to be more effective, before they are prescribed by doctors and paid for by Canadians.


[we will…] Work with the provinces and territories to encourage research and develop strategies to minimize the effects of climate change on communities, vegetation and wildlife.


Stop the hollowing out of Canadian industries by strengthening the Investment Canada Act. Foreign takeovers of Canadian companies will be subject to more stringent tests respecting job protection and creation, head office location, and the promotion of research and development in Canada.

That’s literally every mention of the word “research” in the NDP platform (and every single mention of “university” as well, come right down to it), yielding not a single concrete item on the matter.  Contrast that with this section of the Liberal platform:

A Liberal government will increase support for the indirect costs of university-based research to $500 million a year, which at full implementation will represent a more than 50 percent increase over current levels.

For researchers and graduate students, a Liberal government will increase the budgets of the three granting councils by 34 percent over four years.  Support for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) will both increase to $1.275 billion a year from the current levels of $960 million.  Funding for the Social Sciences and Humanities Council (SSHRC) will be increased to $450 million a year from the current level of $320 million.

We will also create an Interdisciplinary Sustainability Fund of $100 million.  This Fund will be available to scientists, researchers and graduate students for projects that reach beyond the barriers of their discipline.  Interdisciplinary research is the way of the future.   It is how we will address complex scientific challenges – like adaptation to the climate change crisis – that affect our economy and our society. government will increase the budgets of the three granting councils by 34 percent.

You see, now there’s a set of hard targets that I can vote on.  Seeing as I’m funded (well, I *hope to be* funded) by NSERC, knowing that the Liberals would increase their budget is useful information.  Since NSERC and its sister agencies fund much of the public scientific research in Canada, this is a sign that the Liberals would take basic and applied science seriously.

But the NDP?  I have no idea what they would do.  They’re going to “encourage the best minds”?  How?  I might be interested in voting NDP, but I just really need to know more than this big steaming pile of nothing that I’ve got before me right now.  Jack Layon, or one of your supporters, if you’re reading this:  help a guy out.  Help me vote for you.  Explain what the hell you’re talking about.

Canadian iPhone: Rogers dangles the carrot, and here comes the stick.

July 10, 2008

Via Daring Fireball comes word that Rogers will be offering a promotion on data plans which could be of benefit to the iPhone set:

 Effective July 11, and as a limited time promotional offer for customers
who activate by August 31 on a three year contract, a data-only offering of
6GB of data for $30 per month is being made available that can be added to any
in-market voice plan. For example, with 6GB of data, iPhone 3G users can visit
35,952 web pages, or send and receive 157,286 emails, or watch 6,292 minutes
of YouTube videos each and every month.(xx)

This sounds great, and John at Daring Fireball seems to think so too: 6GB of data! That’s a lot more data, right? That’s not unreasonable as a cap, eh? Yeah, sure. 6GB is, as John points out, much better than the $60 for 400 Mb that Rogers is promising right now. But I would be a hell of a lot more inclined to go get an iPhone if this wasn’t a promotional carrot meant to blind you to the incoming thwack of the three-year contract stick. Rogers isn’t responding to the criticisms of its ridiculously priced plans with a re-evaluation of its offerings, they’re responding to the criticisms by throwing out a smokescreen in the hopes of deflecting the bad press that they’re getting.

I’m not at home and so I don’t have the time right now, but I would be really interested in seeing someone calculate the total cost difference on a three-year contract as opposed to a two-year contract. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that you end up paying a lot more than the extra data is worth. Between Bell, Telus, and now Rogers, someone needs to start a wall of shame around here…

Expelled slides into obscurity…

July 7, 2008

As a follow-up to Expelled‘s flop after its premiere in Canada last week, I tried to pull together the numbers for this weekend’s performance.  Unfortunately, finding Canadian box office results separate from US results is hard:  the only source I have is Tribute (one of the Canadian movie magazines), which publishes the top 20 Canadian movies each week.  Last week, Expelled ranked 20th on the list.

This week, it’s not even on the list.

So I can’t tell you how much it made.  What I can tell you is how much it didn’t make:  the 20th ranked film on the list was  Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic, which pulled in a total of $15,226 this weekend.  So Expelled made no more than $15,000 dollars, and chances are that it made a damn sight less.   See the bottom of this post for screencaps of the Tribute website, showing both this weekend and last weekend’s results.

In other news, the Expelled website is now reporting a total of 23 theatres playing the movie (I should have taken screenshots of this too!  Oh well, too late now). It seems that theatres are abandoning this turkey in droves, since across the nation 36% of the theatres that had been showing Expelled – according to their numbers, at least – have dropped it.

Ah, the sweet smell of failure…

Visual records of the fail follow (from

and from the previous week:

Happy Canada Day!

July 1, 2008

Canada day flag!

Well, we’re 141 years old today!  I’d post something more substantial, but frankly, I’m off to have some free cake in the Old Port of Montréal.  Have a great day!

(image source:  I am I.A.M.)

Expelled – Tanking, redux.

June 30, 2008

Well, since the shock of finding out on Friday that Expelled was going to be fouling up my country with its ridiculous nonsense, the weekend numbers on its performance here have come in.  Box office figures for Canada are often lumped in with those of the US so finding good information is hard, but the best number I have states that Expelled pulled in $24,374 across Canada for the whole weekend.

Sorry, I just have to take a minute.  Mwa ha ha ha ha ha ha! I mean, what a shame.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any official numbers which break down the gross per theatre or even how many theatres are showing the damn thing.  So, I did some ball-parking on my own.  Here’s a haphazard list of major cities in Canada (the provincial capitals with Vancouver, Calgary, and Ottawa thrown in) and the number of theatres showing Expelled, culled from online movie listings:

  • Vancouver: 5
  • Victoria: 1
  • Edmonton: 1
  • Calgary: 2
  • Regina: 1
  • Winnipeg: 1
  • Toronto: 10
  • Ottawa: 2
  • Montréal:  1
  • Québec City: 0
  • Fredericton: 0
  • Charlottetown: 0
  • Halifax: 2
  • St. John’s: 1

That makes 27 theatres playing the movie (at least) in Canada.  There are at least three showings at every theatre (a couple have only two showings, but the average is well above three so I’m estimating conservatively here). So for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, we have 27 * 3 * 3 or 243 showings of the movie.  That would make for just over $100 per showing.  Average ticket price is somewhere around $10 per ticket , so we have about 10 people per theater per showing.  That’s pretty pathetic for the “big opening weekend”.  And my estimate is undoubtably conservative, since all ten theatres showing the movie in Toronto are showing it at least 4 and sometimes 5 times per day, as are several of the other markets.

Let’s get this straight:  they didn’t just plunk this turd down in one or two theatres up here in the Great White North.  No, they opened in almost every major Canadian city and the resulting numbers show that they failed miserably.  I would pretend to be sympathetic, but I’m not.  Ben Stein is a lying jackass, and frankly I’m happy that his movie is tankingAgain.

Wait!  There’s more!

Following up, I took a look at the Expelled website.  There’s a theatre locator which I paged through to get a theatre total.  Something is clearly whacky, because their locator only lists 4 theatres playing the movie in Vancouver where I count 5 (for some reason they left out Burnaby entirely), but putting that aside their total is still higher than mine at 36.  36 movie theatres, at an average of three showings per day for three days would make for 324 total showings, or no more than $24,374 / 324 = $75 per theatre, or about 7-8 people per showing. Again, a conservatively high estimate.

This, despite the “group release” extravaganzas available from the Expelled distributors!  Wow, I can’t imagine why people haven’t been snapping up those opportunities.

You may think that I’m being snarky here, and you’d be right.  Ben Stein is an IDiot, and he doesn’t deserve any attention that rises above the level of pure mocking.  So I refuse to do more than laugh at this tool who thinks that science makes murders and that evolution caused the Holocaust, while engaging in some wholesome schadenfreude.  Join me, won’t you?

Canadian iPhone: awww, phooey.

June 27, 2008

iPhone 3G comes to Canada [image]

Well, via The Unofficial Apple Weblog, word has reached me that the iPhone 3G plans have been released by Rogers, and word is that they’re … less than spectacular.  I mean, really?  No unlimited data, caps ranging from 400 MB to 2 GB (which seems ample until some of the apps get installed and start suckin’ down the bytes), a piddling amount of text messages, etc.  Given Rogers’ track record I’m hardly surprised, but I can’t help feeling that they missed an opportunity to do something cool here.  (Full disclosure:  I used to be a Rogers customer until we got tired of being jerked around and moved to Bell, where we’re just been jerked around in new and interesting ways).

Ah, who am I kidding anyways?  It’s not like I have the cash lying around to splash out on one anyways, and I’m stuck with Bell for another God-knows how many years at this point.  By the time I get around to being able to buy an iPhone, the bloody things will be fully autonomous robots that run your life for you.