Ralph: Member Of The Shadow Government

[I apologize for veering into the gaping abyss of politics but I needed to say this: “It’s not as malevolent as it seems.”  Minor perceived (and real) asshattery in the halls of power which slows the transition of power isn’t irredeemably bad.]

There’s a significant portion of the populace that gets frustrated when President Trump’s (he won folks!) ideas are fed into the bureaucracy and emerge with a treatment somewhere along a spectrum from ignored, through mangled, and into misdirected. There’s another portion that thinks “thank God the system is correcting against lunacy” and applaud a spectrum from moderate, through adapt, and into mitigate. Same actions, different point of view. People’s opinions invert with laser-like speed whenever a new party takes the reins. That’s your big tell. It’s not fully real.

Never forget; one man’s “gridlock” is another man’s “cautious and measured approach”. Furthermore “bipartisan” can mean a “widely agreed upon common sense solution” or it can mean “a stampede of lemmings”. Sometimes it means “witch hunt”. Same activity, different point of view.

This all leads to my reaction to dark utterances about the nefarious “shadow government” or “deep state”. There’s less than meets the eye. If you’re worried about that particular evil, let it go.

Yes, of course, there’s internal resistance to a new president. People don’t like change. I get it. I’m still pissed about automatic transmissions and fuel injected engines. Change is hard.

Yet it’s bad juju when folks, desperate in their frustration, complain that everyone in the whole government is hopelessly against the President. They’re not all like that. Statistically it’s almost impossible.

The OPM (which is government personnel) tells me there’s a little over 2 1/2 million executive employees. It’s unreasonable to think every last one of them is a raving douche canoe out to subvert the new administration. Yes, I’m sure some are douche canoes* but most are ordinary people trying to do their job. To help me explain this situation, let me tell you about Ralph:

Ralph is a cog in the machine. Since January 21st Ralph has muddled though; trying to mesh current marching orders (still in place from a handsome Marxist with perfectly creased pants) with likely but as yet hypothetical and also possibly diametrically opposed orders that haven’t yet but eventually might trickle down to his level. Read that last sentence aloud and then think of poor Ralph.

His new marching orders may come from the new boss (who happens to be rather busy at the moment) in due time. Unless they never come at all. Which sometimes happens. Ralph isn’t sure but he thinks his job is partially funded by legislation dating to the Spanish American War… or perhaps it had something to do with Sputnik. Nobody is sure.

How abruptly does Ralph start charging up the hypothetical but seemingly obvious Hill A (the hill he associates with the newly elected boss in chief)? Standing orders insist the target is still Hill B. What if Ralph assumes the new orders will be all about Hill A and proactively acts? Suppose Trump flakes and unexpectedly orders Ralph to charge up Hill Q? Ralph didn’t know about Hill Q until Trump’s Hair started talking about it! Is Ralph’s erroneous concern with Hill A going on his permanent record? Will it get him transferred to the New Jersey satellite office where they send all the losers?

Ralph is supposed to do his maneuvering from a hamster wheel in cubicle 47B. It’s located on the fifth floor of a Soviet level ugly building occupied by a few hundred other Ralphs. Our particular Ralph works in the “nobody gives a shit” Department of the Bureau of “things that never make the papers”. Ralph has no earthly idea what his role in Trump’s “yuge win” will be. He decides it’s best to just do what he’s told (which is still Hill B) and wait for the hammer to fall. Is he shadow government? A resistant deep state? Is he an evil nasty bad guy? How can that be? Ralph’s only interests are lite beer and binge-watching Cake Boss. He’s just trying to do his job.

Suppose Ralph’s job (which he does with due diligence) is to compile statistics about barbed wire consumption in Nebraska as a function of EPA mandates on rototillers. Just how political is his job? Ralph is bitched out daily by Rush Limbaugh. Does Ralph deserve that? Rushbo calls Ralph a force of evil who uses his immense power to hold back the newly anointed messiah. Ralph isn’t even empowered to turn on the office coffee pot.

Ralf can’t make heads nor tails of it. All he knows is barbed wire and rototillers. He keeps muddling through and that’s the best of his limited options.

That evening, Ralph’s dog pees on his foot and his property taxes go up to support a new stadium. Then, because my imagination is vivid, I expect Ralph’s daughter will announce she’s going on tour with a Scorpion’s Tribute Band and his son will accidentally set the refrigerator on fire.

Ralph is fucked, but he’s not evil.

This, this thing I just made up…. is just as likely as an army of lock step shadow forces out to subvert all that’s good.

Also: hail hydra.

Back to my point, most organizations, regardless of who’s in charge, don’t stop on a dime. Indeed when you start talking about systems where millions of people are involved, the sum of the parts is almost certainly weirder than the parts themselves.

So the President’s orders grinding through the gears of bureaucracy only feels like a vast conspiracy of monsters intent on thwarting everything. A lot of “not gettin’ stuff done” is just plain inertia. Inertia is boring, a shadowy resistance is sexy; so guess which one we fret over.

It would be cool (possibly reassuring to some) if the “shadow government” really was a murky conspiratorial group that controls everything. But is it believable? Would James Bond Villains host their meetings at secret locations? What would happen at the meetings? Would the Illuminati show up to plan world domination and for entertainment do unnatural things to piles of innocent fiat currency?

I suppose a certain amount of that exists. (I wouldn’t know. I’m not invited to the meetings. You’re not either.) Presumably it’s less powerful than imagined. Clearly they suck at what they do. Otherwise they wouldn’t be lurking in the shadows. “Behold! We hold the puppet’s strings and control all! Yet our Cheeto tinted nemesis sits in the oval office? Whoopsie!”

So when a new idea is getting masticated in the gaping maw of a big bureaucracy lets not go overboard with fears of a “shadow government”. Surely there’s some of that but most of the workforce is chained to their desks as usual; filling out TPS reportschanging their budget plans, and wondering what was really in the office coffee pot. Ralph sure wasn’t invited to secret meetings of the people who control everything.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words I present the following images of what is most certainly not the shadow government (note: all three are linked to short videos):


*I love the phrase “douche canoe”. It makes no sense whatsoever.

**I’d like to thank fiction for giving me non-political examples of the foolishness inherent in most bureaucracies and the people who deeply understand it.

About AdaptiveCurmudgeon

Adaptive Curmudgeon is handsome, brave, and wise.
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20 Responses to Ralph: Member Of The Shadow Government

  1. Maybe largely true. However, I do think a fair number of people towards the top are doing what they can to muck things up. Maybe they disagree ( maybe they have strong beliefs regarding hills A or B…..perhaps they even worked on the team that proved hills A and B were the only possible choices) only to have Hill Q suddenly appear !?!! Screw cheeto hair and anyone who thinks Hill Q is the answer !! Not only must the Hill Q initiative be stopped but if possible said Govt employee should alert his friend at the next building that rumor has it Cheeto hair is planning on changing rules regarding olives in Texas !! Or regulations that clearly state the California wine is better than wine from any other state !! Friends/Govt employees who have just learned the old down is now up MUST unite and fight the madness,…..not just merely piss around for lack of direction but actually oppose the Trump insanity !

    PS another days goes by without news regarding Squirrels or Bears or even Abba !! What madness is this? No tip jar for you !

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      Oh no! I only took a few days off the Squirrels! Give me a break. I had to hang around the woodstove sipping coffee and pondering Cliff Claven. It was necessary.

  2. Doctor Mingo says:

    If I were President I would issue two executive orders. The first order would direct the Department of Education to place a “Ron Swanson” in every high school in America to teach Government. Once this was accomplished, my second order would be to eliminate the Dept of Education.

    • Hell, I’d trim every govt dept or get rid of it. Govt, exists to create the maximum probability of entropy and the appearance of maxwell’s demon.

      • ILTim says:

        I’d strangle funding as close to the source as possible. Trimming of departments will take care of itself.

        Change the rules around federal taxation. The federal government is prohibited from making any direct contact with citizens, ever, under any circumstances. No direct collection of income taxes, sales taxes, etc. Tax must be collected from the states. States are free to raise those funds any way they choose. They will be initially encouraged to follow federal guidelines which aids each state to become a regional IRS office… but what will entropy introduce?

        Decentralize. Reset the hierarchical model by removing the biggest mistake ever written into the system, individual federal income taxes.

  3. Phssthpok says:

    “*I love the phrase “douche canoe”. It makes no sense whatsoever.”

    And here all this time I’ve associated it with ‘The Little Man in the Boat’. IYKWIMAITYD

  4. Anonymous says:


    Arendt’s book introduced the expression and concept “the banality of evil”. Her thesis is that Eichmann was not a fanatic or sociopath, but an extremely average person who relied on clichéd defenses rather than thinking for himself and was motivated by professional promotion rather than ideology. Banality, in this sense, is not that Eichmann’s actions were ordinary, or that there is a potential Eichmann in all of us, but that his actions were motivated by a sort of stupidity which was wholly unexceptional

    Of course Ralph is evil, but like most evil it’s banal. Very few evil people are James Bond movie villains, plotting completely visualized plans from a volcano lair while petting a white cat.

    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      Interesting take on the matter. I’ve heard the “banality of evil” concept but never thought of applying it to someone as disenfranchised as Cliff Claven or, in my case, the hypothetical Ralph. I’m picturing Ralph as at worst ineffective (despite doing his level best to be the most efficient barbed wire counter / rototiller analyst he can be). I have a hard time considering him objectively evil but I suppose there are shades of grey. Perhaps I could explore if the barbed wire/rototiller regulations are causing harm but I didn’t want to go too deep in the brush. (Particularly since I made the idea up.)

      What I hoped to mention was that many people are more or less trapped in cement while the ship of state takes a new navigational aim and they’re not out to thwart anyone. But yeah… there’s definitely banality in Ralph and banality is not a blanket excuse. Perhaps I’l wait a year and revisit Ralph in the light of 2018’s world and see if he’s doing anything different. Is he hassling ranchers with the new barbed wire regulation board? Reassigned to a public/private consortium to improve rototiller awesomeness with aims to increase the beer hop harvest? Or did he just give up and become a mime in Bolivia? Hard to say.

      • Anonymous says:

        I have a hard time considering him objectively evil but I suppose there are shades of grey.

        Not grey in the slightest. He’s producing military intelligence for use by smarter people to command men with guns to deny rototillers nonconforming to some third party’s opinions from peaceful people, using threats of murder. It is normal law for violent crimes like bank robbery, for the robbers to be held accountable for their contribution of cause to the criminally bad effect, which they can’t excuse doing. There is no valid reason for the violent organized criminal enterprise called politics to be treated differently.

        Perhaps I could explore if the barbed wire/rototiller regulations are causing harm

        This is not the NIST setting objective measurement standards for stereo amplifier power rating claims; Ralph is a scout for an occupation army.

    • Sorta like C.S. Lewis and the Screwtape letters huh?

  5. Phssthpok says:

    “I’m picturing Ralph as at worst ineffective (despite doing his level best to be the most efficient barbed wire counter / rototiller analyst he can be). I have a hard time considering him objectively evil but I suppose there are shades of grey.”

    Much like Ian Holm’s character, Mr. Kurtzmann, in the 1985 film Brazil?

  6. You need a break. Here, read the tale of Sumdood, the Evil Criminal Mastermind.


  7. Mark Matis says:

    Ralph himself might not be evil. But Susan Rice is evil. Eric Holder is evil. Jeh Johnson is evil. Janet Napolitano is evil. Loretta Lynch is evil. James Clapper is evil. John Brennan is evil. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is evil. Sonia Sotomayor is evil. Elena Kagan is evil. And when any of them tell Ralph to do evil, he does it to the best of his ability. THAT is where the real problem lies.

  8. Pingback: Dana Loesch Takes Aim, Ralph, and Sumdood | nebraskaenergyobserver

  9. JFM says:

    I think that part of the “banality of evil” is the removal of individual discretion and judgement from enforcing regulations and “bureaucratic laws”. I’ve read with interest accounts of police doing welfare checks where they end up killing the person they were checking on. 40 years ago the police would just walk away, because they could.

  10. Joel says:

    Once they finally started getting it right in the mid-eighties, fuel injection became a huge improvement over the evil that is carburetion and the insanity that is late seventies/early eighties “emission controls.”


    • AdaptiveCurmudgeon says:

      You win. I grudgingly accept fuel injection as a superior and mature technology. It was a long process of acceptance but over decades I bowed to reality. I’ll state it here for the record: I was wrong, fuel injection really is better.

      I “got with the program” when running diesels. But I’m also reminded of the superiority of fuel injection whenever I’m “warming up” a carbureted engine. They’re amazingly primitive compared to current cars. I shake my head and remind myself that back in the stone age all vehicles needed a little TLC to get ’em going. Even so I’m forever nervous that the “magic voodoo box of math that makes it all run” is far beyond my ability to manipulate. Also, there’s no easy upgrade path for certain engines to upgrade them to fuel injection. I’d love to tinker with a setup on my Ford 2N but there’s no hobby bolt on kit.

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