FURY V. FORGIVENESS: Kirsten Powers apologized!


The germ of a good idea: We experienced a lightly comical manifestation as we read this morning's newspapers. It came to us courtesy of Ben Ritz—and the New York Times.

Ritz is director of the Center for Funding America’s Future at the Progressive Policy Institute (the PPI). For the record, the PPI is an organization which generally wouldn't get scored as "progressive," given current conventions.

More generally, the PPI would be scored as centrist, New Democrat, neo-liberal. Needless to say, that doesn't mean that the things its directors say automatically have to be wrong. 

In a guest essay in the Times, Ritz is urging Democrats to go back to work with Senator Manchin. He recommends passing a version of Build Back Better which satisfies Manchin's demands. 

"I believe abandoning Mr. Biden’s agenda would be a massive mistake," Ritz writes. But even within the Manchin frameworks, Ritz also says this:

"There is a clear path forward to deliver a historically significant, fiscally responsible bill that supports working families, expands access to affordable health care and combats the climate crisis."

We don't know if some such outcome is possible. If it is, we'd support that outcome too. Still and all, we had to chuckle when we came to this:

RITZ (12/23/21): Unlike those on the left now unleashing their righteous wrath on Mr. Manchin, I have long sympathized with his objections to this approach, as well as his concerns about inflation and the unsustainable growth of our national debt.

Ritz has "long sympathized with" Manchin's concerns about inflation and the national debt? Since Ritz is only seven years out of college (George Washington, class of 2014), we allowed the analysts to chuckle at that a bit.

The chuckles turned to outright guffaws when we clicked Ritz's link. How long has he sympathized with Manchin's concerns?

This long! The link he provides leads back to this column in The Hill. The column was published less than two months ago, in late October of this very year!

Ritz has long sympathized with Manchin's concerns, dating to late October! Sometimes, it helps to laugh at the silly posing which finds its way into print.

Thumbs are routinely placed on the scales as elite insiders debate. For our money, the New York Times should have asked the talented Mr. Ritz to clean up that one silly statement.

None of this means that Ritz is wrong in his basic view—in the way he says we should move on from here. Among other suggestions, he seems to suggest that "those on the left" should stop "unleashing their righteous wrath on Manchin."

We're inclined to agree with that view. But we thought we'd share that bit of humor before we turned to the sorrow and the pity—the sorrow and pity a person might feel in reviewing events of the day.

In part, we refer to this news report, in today's New York Times, concerning the deaths by suicide of college freshmen at West Virginia University and at Yale.

We refer to the limited judgment of the conservative group which recently featured Kyle Rittenhouse in a sprawling stage production.

We refer to the ways our own liberal tribe keeps moving on with our demonizations of Rittenhouse—demonization which are often based on bogus factual claims.

We also refer to the unfortunate behavior of Bette Midler, a good, decent person who recently tweeted this:

MIDLER (12/20/21): What #JoeManchin, who represents a population smaller than Brooklyn, has done to the rest of America, who wants to move forward, not backward, like his state is horrible. He sold us out. He wants us all to be just like his state, West Virginia. Poor, illiterate and strung out.

Forty minutes later, Midler apologized. That said, this has long been part of our tribe's DNA. This is the way we routinely refer to The Others, the "scum."

Midler is a good, decent person who made an unhelpful remark. According to experts, the tribal loathing she expressed is wired within our human brains—and is encouraged by our new technologies and by our profit-based corporate arrangements.

Also in this morning's Times, Samuel Earle opines that our modern-day Internet is more destructive than anything pictured in the 1999 film, The Matrix.

The tribalized nature of Internet / social media culture is a large part of that problem. So is the tribalized nature of "cable news," in which we segregate ourselves into two warring tribes and persistently demonize Others. 

Two years ago, Kirsten Powers apologized for her previous role in that system. She did so in her regular opinion column in USA Today.

Powers lamented the various ways she'd behaved. In our view, she was expressing the germ of a good, sound, decent idea.

What had been wrong with Powers' conduct?  You can assess her full column here, but this is the way she started:

POWERS (2/19/19): I recently took a hiatus from social media to reflect on what role I might be playing in our increasingly toxic public square. I was not proud of what I found.

During this time, I reflected not just on my behavior on social media, but also in my public expressions both on TV and in my columns. I looked back over the past decade of my work with a clear eye to assess whether I was shedding light on issues or just creating heat. 

I cringed at many of the things I had written and said. Many I would not say or write today, sometimes because my view has changed on the issue and sometimes just because I was too much of a crusader, too judgmental and condemning. 

What’s interesting is that at the time, I was convinced that I was righteous and “speaking truth” and therefore justified behaving as I did, and that anyone who didn’t like it just “couldn’t handle the truth.”

According to Powers, she had felt sure that she was right, and that everyone else was wrong. More to the point, she had been entirely sure that The Others were simply bad people.

From 2007 to 2016, Powers appeared on Fox News as an outspoken liberal commentator. In 2016, she moved to CNN, where she can still be seen. 

In September of this year, Powers published a book, Saving Grace, in which she discusses her views on "our increasingly toxic public square" in much greater detail. 

In our view, she still hasn't thoroughly sorted out her views on these matters. After reading the book, it seems to us that her views on these matters are still substantially jumbled.

That said, we think her regrets about her own role in this maelstrom provide a good model for others.

"I was too much of a crusader, too judgmental and condemning." Powers wrote in that column. Her book supplies much more detail.

In the column from which we're quoting, Powers also said this:

POWERS: When I took to Twitter Monday to apologize for my lack of grace in the public square, many people expressed concern that I would stop speaking with moral clarity on important issues. This is not my goal. I will continue to stand on the side of equality and justice, but also mercy and grace. My goal is to speak in a way that remembers the humanity of everyone involved.

...[That] includes Trump supporters whom I, in an attempt to raise awareness of the issue of white privilege, not too long ago regrettably characterized as uniformly racist for voting for him. Not exactly a conversation starter.

Are Trump supporters "uniformly racist?" They are if you read a lot of the work our own angry tribe presents. According to many of our own tribe's "thought leaders," Those People Are All Just Alike.

For the record, much of our tribe's mandated work is also factually bogus. Our tribunes play those games all day, even Over Here.

In her column, then in her book, Powers has apologized for many things she said and did down through the years. We've been sorry to learn about the amount of turmoil she has experienced during her years in the cable news wars, but ugly, deeply stupidified discourse takes a toll on us all.

We assume that Bette Midler is a good, decent person. By way of contrast, her recent tweet was the deeply unhelpful product of a long, ongoing war.

Tomorrow, we're going to ask you to think about the ways we may get misled Over Here. In the process, we'll suggest the possibility of rethinking Kyle Rittenhouse—who's just 18, after all.

Beyond that, we'll ask you to think about the late Joseph Rosenbaum, the first person Rittenhouse shot and killed in Kenosha that night. Rosenbaum, a human being, was also a mentally ill, presumably dangerous person who was chasing Rittenhouse through the streets, having earlier threatened to kill him.

(One was lugging a fire extinguisher. Do we know which one that was?)

Two nights ago, we saw Professor Cobb seem to say that Rittenhouse had been chasing Rosenbaum through the streets that night. In such ways, the people we're inclined to trust may be inclined to mislead us, perhaps in the unthinking, reflexive ways Powers has discussed.

Our tribes are invested in churning out demons. Such conduct is bogus, unhelpful. It's the stuff of an onrushing war, an onrushing war which decent people are perhaps unlikely to win.

Tomorrow: There but for fortune! Rosenbaum, Rittenhouse, Trump


  1. How can Rittenhouse, current holder of the "Snowflake of the Year" title, be a "demon"? Hell's fire would melt that creampuff in a second.

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  2. The media should tell the truth about Rittenhouse. Every story should point out how black people asking for equality was a bridge too far for him.


  3. "I will continue to stand on the side of equality and justice, but also mercy and grace"

    What, 'mercy'? Oh, dear. Your Kirsten Powers, dear Bob, after being (allegedly) exorcised, sounds exactly as possessed as any other dembot.

    No, dear Bob, exorcism doesn't work on dembots. Just like it wouldn't work on zombies. Because, alas, they are one and the same...

  4. Rosenbaum did not threaten Rittenhouse in any way, this is a flat out lie by Somerby. In fact Rittenhouse taunted Rosenbaum and then murdered him in cold blood. Nobody presumed Rosenbaum to be dangerous, a slight and diminutive person whom Rittenhouse towered over.

    The fact is West Virginia is a state of poor, illiterate, and strung out people, long abandoned by the party they still support due to cultural reasons, the Republican Party. The Dems are the only ones offering any help to the people of WVA, and Manchin refuses to help his own people because he is bought and paid for by capitalists.

  5. Thinking about Rittenhouse leads only to the assessment that he is a psychopath who got off scot-free by a jury of white conservatives as part of an effort by right wingers to decriminalize murder for white people.

    Somerby is dumb as shit to think his weak sauce of gaslighting is going to be effective.

  6. Manchin is not going to support voting rights or welfare. If you think those matter he's not your guy. He thinks poor families don't deserve anything from the government except a strong dollar, they're weak in character and will use it on illicit pleasures.

    It's not that he's evil. He's just way too rich and invested in the planets actual ruin and doesn't want to take responsibility. Rich people are like that.

    But our ruling class knows that feeling already. Carter smashed up Central America, liberals never apologized. Reagan and Clinton smashed up small farmers in the US. All I hear about is how we wish we had more of that.

    Sorry Bob, I'm doing politics locally now. Your savagely capitalist think tanks will have to make do with the huge piles of money they already have. I'm not donating.

  7. Forty minutes later, Midler apologized. That said, this has long been part of our tribe's DNA. This is the way we routinely refer to The Others, the "scum."

    It's been a major feature of her tribe very assuredly, with famously... regrettable results.

    1. Why does Somerby always attribute bad behavior to our DNA and not assign responsibility to the people who have behaved badly?

      There is no "anger" gene, no gene for scum-calling, no such thing as a liberal or conservative gene.

      The propensity to blame things on genetics, however, is very much alive on the far right, where DNA is blamed for bad grades and shoplifting and inability to drive well. Calling someone a tribe member doesn't change that at all, even though it comes across as a euphemism for racial thinking.

  8. "The chuckles turned to outright guffaws when we clicked Ritz's link. How long has he sympathized with Manchin's concerns?"

    Somerby assumes that the link provided by Link was to show how long he has been concerned about debt, but it seems more likely it was a link to an article that explains his concerns and demonstrates that he didn't make up that opinion just for the current essay.

    No one really thinks that Ritz was trying to use the link to show how long he has been concerned. That is Somerby's fiction, invented to mock Ritz for his age, something he was born with and can do nothing about. Ritz is certainly not a child and there is nothing inherently ridiculous about any of his statements, but Somerby invents this idea that he was trying to prove the longevity of his views, not linking to a better explanation of them.

    Somerby is such an ass. What struck me about today's big joke (ha ha ha) is how similar he was to Rachel Maddow when she jokes around in ways that Somerby finds unfunny. Perhaps that is why she annoys him so much -- his own faults are mirrored in her performances.

    As for how long Ritz has been concerned about debt, he is 7 years out of college. If he were a precocious kid, he could have been interested in politics since his early teens. That would give him a solid 15 years or so of caring about the debt. What is Somerby's minimum required longevity? He doesn't say, but even 7 years should qualify. Of course, we all recognize that he is just being a jerk to a reporter who was just doing his job -- no need for any editor to change that part of what he wrote.

  9. "Are Trump supporters "uniformly racist?" They are if you read a lot of the work our own angry tribe presents."

    They are if you read their own words too, or if you listen to what they say to the press or at their rallies. They are if you go by what is written on their t-shirts and signs. They are if you judge by their behavior toward others.

    There is a saying by Maya Angelou: When someone tells you who they are, believe them the first time.

    One advantage to the internet is that we get to see the racists behaving badly toward black people in public via cell phone footage. It is no longer white people said, black people said, when it comes to racist incidents.

    Somerby likes to pretend that racism is over and that most white people are kind decent people (like Bette Midler), but the existence of these videos shows us what racism looks like in everyday life and it isn't anything like Somerby's view of his white neighbors.

    And yes Trump voters do have different racial attitudes (aside from being whiter than Biden voters) than liberals. This has been demonstrated in surveys, although they do not have the market cornered on racism. It is part of why they vote for Trump -- he gives them permission to hate.

    Unless Somerby can admit that, he has nothing to say to anyone here. He is just another Trump-lite, assuring us that there were good people at the March to Unite the Right in Charlottesville, including the poor guy who ran over the protester (on purpose) who no doubt deserves our forgiveness. Why was that, again?

    1. Corby where is the proof that Manafort gave polling data to the Kremlin? You said that was a fact.

    2. US Treasury Department





    3. None of that is proof. The first article says explicitly "It was not clear what new information, if any, led to the Treasury Department’s assessment that Kilimnik had “provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy.” A Treasury Department spokesman did not return an email seeking comment."

      There's no proof.

    4. So funny you cite as proof an article that has no proof and a number of subsequent articles that cite the original article with no proof as some kind of proof.

      You people are complete morons.

    5. I'm asking to see proof. Not the baseless mutterings of some bureaucracy.

    6. 8:32,
      You'll be asking forever, because there is no proof.
      Just as I've been asking the name of the Republican voter who isn't a bigot, for the past 5 years.

    7. The proof that Manafort gave polling data to the Kremlin was hidden with Saddam's WMDs by all the Republican voters who aren't bigots.
      You find one of those things, you'll find them all.

    8. But we've long ago established the claim all Republicans are bigots can be disproven by looking at the demographic information of the party itself, and that the claim all Republicans are bigots is itself bigoted. So, no both of your replies put you in the camp of Corby: the foolish rubes full of pathetic, bullshit claims they can't back up camp.

    9. 10:12,
      Thanks for the link.

    10. Did you learn that Republicans aren’t all bigots in your pre-school CRT class?

    11. No, I broke bread with them. That's all ya gotta do.

    12. The next good faith argument made by a Right-winger will be their first.

    13. 10:12,
      Don't let anyone tell you you don't have an opinion.

    14. The proof that Manafort helped the Russians rig the 2016 election is that Donald Trump became president. Even Trump himself expected to lose. When you examine how that happened, the various Russian efforts on Trump's behalf are the obvious answer.

      If anyone is waiting for Manafort or Putin or Trump to confess, and will only accept that as proof, they are playing a game, not seriously looking for answers.

      Why won't Zuckerberg purge Russian propaganda from Facebook? Why did various Russian oligarchs funnel money to Republican campaigns via the NRA? Do you think they give away money for no reason?

    15. When you examine how Trump won, the various Russian efforts on Trump's behalf are the obvious scapegoat. Trump won because he appealed to an electorate that detests the status quo elite of both parties.

      Sorry, you have not given proof.

    16. The various Russian efforts on Trump's behalf are the obvious answer to the propagandized by Maddow set.

    17. If Maddow is suggesting there is a Republican who isn't a bigot, she is wrong. Deeply wrong.

  10. "a mentally ill, presumably dangerous person"

    Somerby is talking about Rosenbaum, not Rittenhouse, with these words. Blaming him for getting himself shot.

    It is unfair to stereotype mentally ill people as dangerous. They are not. They are suffering and they need care, but they are not generally dangerous, even if the idea of mental illness or their unusual behavior may seem scary to teens and untrained fake medics with fire extinguishers.

    Less than 5% of those with schizophrenia engage in violent behavior, for example. Those with major depression may be a danger to themselves but aren't going to throw sacks full of laundrey at people. Statistics show that mentally ill people are not more violent than the general population.

    Why would Somerby think they are? Perhaps because Republicans and the NRA are so quick to blame mental illness for shootings by angry young teens in possession of illegal weapons. When Somerby and his right wing buddies jump to blame mental illness for every shooting, how does that complicate the lives of non-violent mentally ill people under treatment, looking for work and trying to establish a normal life?

    And why has Somerby never suggested that Rittenhouse obtain treatment? Does Somerby think it is normal for a kid to do what Rittenhouse did?

    Remember, Rosenbaum was unarmed and he didn't shoot or beat up or even spit on anyone. Rittenhouse was the one who killed two people.

  11. "Two nights ago, we saw Professor Cobb seem to say that Rittenhouse had been chasing Rosenbaum through the streets that night. In such ways, the people we're inclined to trust may be inclined to mislead us, perhaps in the unthinking, reflexive ways Powers has discussed."

    There is a lot of video taken in Kenosha. It shows Rittenhouse's behavior as well as Rosenbaum's. There is no need to depend on Somerby's assertions (derived from edited footage on Fox News).

    From Politifact:

    "Claim: A video shows Rittenhouse "was trying to get away from them" ... fell, and then they violently attacked him."

    Our ruling: False.

    The statement was made by Trump.

    Rittenhouse tripped and fell as a group of people pursued him. But Trump’s claim left out vital context: that Rittenhouse ran away from protesters after, according to prosecutors, he had already shot and killed someone."