I can patent a method of using IRC to arrange the delivery of baked goods and that would be a valid patent (actually, it's probably already patented).
No idea whether it would be valid legally because the patent office is out with the fairies but it shouldn't be valid. That's just a particular instance of the use of IRC which is a general purpose communication medium. Because it is a general purpose communication medium no patent for a specific instance of that communication should be possible. An "instance of" relation not a "use of" relation. An "instance of" relation should never be patentable because there is always prior art.
The patent office, and you to some degree, seem to be confused about the difference between words and ideas (is a file system a database?), whether ideas are the same and different (are two shades of the color orange the same or different?) and whether one idea is contained by another (is using a car to move something different from using a vehicle to move something?). The patent office doesn't seem to understand even simple concepts like Venn diagrams and the fact that words and meanings have varying overlaps and relationships. Specifically, patenting something simply because somebody has renamed and reduced the coverage of an existing concept should not be possible.
Every new patent is a new law; another opportunity for a lawyer to make money at the expense of the wider community.
I'm not sure which exhaustion counter you've been looking at. I've been keeping an eye on a number of exhaustion predictions for the past few years and they have been reasonably consistent (i.e. +/- 6 months). The allocation policies have been changed over the years and this has extended the amount of time we have, but not by much. Obviously exhaustion predictions can't take into account policy changes until they are at least visible on the horizon, so I do expect it'll be extended a bit more, but I'm honestly not expecting that extension to be more than a few months. New policies will also probably start making it much harder for people to get IPv4 addresses, so increasing the pressure to migrate onto IPv6 before the IPv4 addresses are exhausted.
there are no even halfway accurate estimates of that date.
And _that_ is why ISPs need to act now (actually, several years ago) to prepare themselves. This *is* going to happen, the longer they leave it, the more chance they will be caught with their pants down when it actually happens.
There are certainly short-term gains to be had by sticking your head in the sand and pretending that there isn't a problem. Unfortunately the cost of having to drop everything and roll out a whole new network at crunch time is going to be very expensive, far outweighing those short term savings. Sadly, business these days seems to be all about short term gains at the expense of long term viability.
I wonder how it came to be that one would be permitted to check web-based email in the hospital's pediatric cardiac surgery department?
And exactly why wouldn't be allowed? It's not like the computer is sitting in the surgery theater.
It's connected to sensitive hospital records. That's more than enough reason to lock it down and not allow web browsing or the execution of arbitrary programs.
Why? Cars already have to go in for inspection, just check the mileage then and tax appropriately.
Not all states have vehicle inspections. As an example, Kansas, where I live. None of my vehicles have even been seen by the state, I just tell them the VIN of what I have, they tell me to pay $X in taxes, then give me a license plate.
Of course, implementing mandatory mileage checks at renewal time and computing taxes based on miles at that time would still be a helluva lot more sensible.
The alternative is to let Medicare bureaucrats, who are not doctors...
I'm sure many Insurance Company bureaucrats in places to decide your care are also not doctors. One difference, however, may be that Medicare bureaucrats have no profit motive.
I'm not trying to start an argument, it's something to consider.
I say this as a health care provider and a citizen: I'd take a government bureaucrat over an insurance corporation bureaucrat any day. One doesn't give a shit one way or the other if you get what you want, the other has a vested interest in keeping you from getting what you want.
"All we are given is possibilities -- to make ourselves one thing or another." -- Ortega y Gasset