Something very unpleasant is happening in this country.  Many of us were lulled into believing that race and gender were no longer subjects for political vitriol.  But the Sotomayor hearings and a black family in the White House have shown that was an overly optimistic assessment. People with loud voices and daily access to microphones, cameras and blogs have made ugly forms of expression seemingly acceptable.

Pundits of dubious intellect regale listeners with lame attempts at humor, and a host of anchors and political hacks try to convince us their observations are based on a careful distillation of facts. Pat Buchanan, still drooling over Sarah Palin, sent colleagues at MSNBC into fits of laughter when he suggested that “first dude” Todd Palin should take Levi Johnston (father of daughter Bristol’s child) down to a creek and hold his head under water “until the thrashing stops.” That’s funny? And in a telling moment Senator Grassley on Wednesday’s Morning Joe said his side was more interested in Sotomayor’s speeches than her actual record. These are very troubled people.