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I found the following comment left in a website:

There was an offer to merge, but the API was completely different and I gave up with the negative feedback. The attached zips were as far as I got, feel free to continue the cause as it is a bit hard for me to do this from Internet cafes in Mexico.

Get ready for an abrupt closing of this issue by the powers above…

It's not clear to me if powers above is referring to the users who posted a comment before that comment, and who have the possibility to close an issue report in the same way questions are closed on Stack Exchange sites, or if the powers above is a set phrase.
Which is the correct interpretation?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It is a set phrase, though I personally encounter "the powers that be" more often. As you say yourself, in this case it refers to people who have the possibility to close a report. However, above has nothing to do with whether said people have posted a comment before that or not. You will find this phrase e.g. in Shakespeare's Macbeth ("Come, go we to the king; our power is ready; / Our lack is nothing but our leave; Macbeth / Is ripe for shaking, and the powers above / Put on their instruments.") or Homer's Odyssey in Alexander Pope's translation ("Why cease ye then t' implore the powers above, / And offer hecatombs to thundering Jove?")

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+1 When I saw this question, powers that be came instantly to mind! –  Jimi Oke Feb 8 '11 at 1:20

"The powers above" is similar to "higher powers" or "the powers that be," referring to the deity of one's choosing. These phrases are intentionally ambiguous so that any listener/reader will not take offense at the speaker's choice of one god over others.

This meaning seems very likely to be the intended meaning of the comment you describe, although it is possible that the speaker was talking about the community of readers and moderators.

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It originally referred to gods, but today it just refers to, well, those who have the power to do whatever is referred or, rather more often, alluded to. –  Jürgen A. Erhard Feb 7 '11 at 10:54

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