Saturday, April 13, 2019

Resistance is Futile!

What does this "resistance" movement mean, anyway?

There is a guy on our island with a beat-up old Nissan hardbody pickup truck with mismatched stick-on mailbox letters on the back of his truck (that ends up looking like a ransom note) proclaiming:

rESisT 45!

I am not sure what this means, other than it looks creepy and no one likes creepy.   The problem with turning your personal vehicle into a political billboard is, of course, that it may turn people off.  And if you work in a job that serves the public, it can cause problems.   Potential employers may take a van-load of stickers as a sign of instability.   Customers may be offended at your anti-Trump or pro-Trump sentiments.   As I discovered as an attorney, it is best to leave politics out of business matters, and if a client pontificated on a political point of view, I would merely reply, "you may very well be right about that!" and move on to business.

But getting back to "the resistance" - what does it mean, anyway?   During World War II, the French Resistance blew up train bridges and assassinated Nazi officers.   Surely this isn't what these "resist" people have in mind.   At least I hope not!

Some argue that entrenched bureaucrats in the government are forming a "deep State" that is "resisting" the President's impulses.   For example, Trump wants to bus asylum-seeking refugees to "sanctuary cities" as a means of retaliation (and people say he doesn't have a sense of humor!).   But, wait, when they run this by "legal" it turns out there are some pesky laws that might be broken if this is done.   Are these people "resisting" or just doing their job by providing sound legal advice?

In any government, there is a certain amount of inertia, and while I was at the Patent Office, I saw this firsthand.   The debate about whether software should be patentable rages on even today (despite the fact that it is harder than ever before to demarcate what is "software" and "firmware" and "hardware").  But back in the day - 1987 - one Group Director decided he would take matters in his owns hands and reject every application he deemed to be "software".   There was really no legal precedent for this - their argument was that under 35 USC 101 "mental processes" were not patentable, and a software program was just a mental process on a computer.

Maybe that argument held weight when most programs were a few kilobits in size and the forumulas or algorithms were just accounting practice put to a PC.   But over time, software has expanded greatly.   You can now emulate most hardware in software - software modems, for example, or the vaunted "virtual machine" that allows you to create an entire computer as a program.   It gets tricky.

Anyway, some applicants appealed these rejections and the Board of Appeals would overturn them.   Not deterred, this same Group Director instructed his Examiners to reject yet again.   One case I reviewed went on for over a decade this way.  When it finally issued, the technology (a means of clock timing a microprocessor - I am not sure how anyone could call this "software") was so embedded in industry that the owner cleaned up on royalties - for 17 years from the date of issue, back then.  If they had just allowed the case on a first action, competitors could have designed-around the claims early on.   Now, it was too late.

Other cases were appealed to the newly formed Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which hears all Patent and IP related appeals - among other things.    Some early decisions struck down these artificial limitations on software patents - and even opened the door to "business method patents" (whose door they have been trying to slam shut ever since).    But at the Patent Office, not much changed.   Our position was, well, courts change their minds, so why be in a rush to change ours?  And to some extent, that was indeed true, particularly with regard to the business method fiasco.

I am not taking a piss on the Patent Office, here, merely illustrating how inertia takes hold.   And sometimes, inertia isn't a bad thing.  The Ship of State doesn't need to be - or shouldn't be - nimble, except in times of great emergency.   Sometimes, inertia is to our advantage, allowing change to slow down and be reversed if necessary, if such changes turn out to be a bad idea.   "Full Speed Ahead!" is often the wrong order to give, if you the ship is heading over Niagara Falls.

So this idea of "Deep State" as some sort of evil conspiracy is, of course, hooey.   It is just government civil servants doing their jobs, and the system working the way it is supposed to.   Trump, like Obama and Presidents before them, is discovering that being President is not quite like being Dictator, even if both were names of Studebaker cars.

But on a personal level, what does this "resist" nonsense mean?   Not much, as it turns out.   It is just a catchy slogan devoid of meaning.  There is really nothing you can do to "resist" President Trump and his ilk, other than to vote and contribute money to political campaigns.

And when I say vote, I don't mean to vote for a Manchurian Candidate like Jill Stein, who travels to Russia and meets with Vladimir Putin.   And I don't mean to vote for a candidate who is so far out of the mainstream that they will never have a chance of being elected.    If you want to replace Trump, rather than "resisting" him, find a viable replacement that a majority of Americans will vote for.

Because running on issues like "open borders" and "socialism" is just going to ensure another four years of futile "resistance" and likely will result in the Democrats losing the House as well.

Resistance is futile!