tedster - 11:01 pm on May 26, 2010 (gmt 0)
There have been similar comments around our forums and elsewhere. I can say that Google has many tools they use in their war against selling links for ranking purposes. And in the beginning they seemed to be a lot more harsh.
Foir example, they can just change visible toolbar PR; they can ignore one link, or one page, or a set of pages -- or even ignare all the site's outbound links. Going beyond just ignoring the links they suspect were sold, they can also apply a penalty at the page or site level, too.
I'd say Google is up against the wall on being even-handed. If their organic search results don't include the obvious "900 pound gorilla" in the space, then their search engine looks broken to the end user. If I had to guess, I'd say that's the factor that can create a kind of double standard.