The Queen has opened parliament and announced its plans for the next year. The BBC reports here, and I'm just commenting upon a few issues which interested me.
There's no mention of immigration in the speech; according to some second-hand reporting, a) the Conservatives wanted to have something about limiting it but the Lib Dems stopped them and b) Labour have been denouncing the lack of planned increases in restriction of immigration. If this is the case, then good for the Lib Dems and yet another reason not to vote for either Labour or the Tories.
Charging for plastic bags in England
I'm in two minds about this. In one sense it makes a lot more sense for plastic bags to be charged for along with everything else in the supermarket, but then again you'd expect supermarkets to charge for bags if it really represented much of an increase in efficiency. When I'm shopping my tendency is to use the self checkout, scan everything in, pay, and then pack things into bags. I'd have to change the ordering of that a bit if charging for plastic bags were implemented. There doesn't seem to be any obvious loss for me in making this change. I suppose the thing that worries me about the policy more than anything is that it doesn't really seem to me like a great deal of thought has been put into it. Have they really done a full analysis and concluded that yes, the best way to reduce waste of bags is really to charge exactly 5p per bag, or have they just chosen 5p because it's a nice round number?
I have a feeling that I will hate the anti-crime bill which, it is announced, will give police "tougher powers to seize the assets of crime bosses, tackle cyber crime" and "make possession of written paedophilia a criminal offence". The "seizing assets of crime bosses" sounds like it could easily turn into US-style civil forfeiture or lead to Catch-22 type situations where the police seize your assets, you want to launch a legal appeal but you can't because you can't afford a lawyer, and you can't afford a lawyer because the police have seized your assets.
Far more puzzling, though, is the criminalisation of "written paedophilia". I can understand why you might make possession of graphic paedophilic material illegal - harm involved in production, protecting the identity of the children pictured - but none of this seems to apply to written material. Children will not be harmed in production, and unless the material not only recounts actual events but also fails to take the very basic step of changing names, there are no identities needing protection either.
One might argue that by denormalising paedophilia we can make child molestation less regular. This is an empirical claim, and so far as I can tell it is almost certainly wrong. Studies have shown that showing violent movies tends to reduce violent behaviour, and I would presume that something similar would be in play for sex - masturbation (I suspect) acts far more as a substitute for sex than a complement.