Google removes anti-MoveOn.org ads; but did they do it too easily?

Just weeks after forcing a CafePress.com shopkeeper to stop selling t-shirts referencing their name, far-left liberal activist group MoveOn.org has struck again, this time successfully lobbying search giant Google to take down anti-MoveOn.org advertising which referencing the group’s recent attacks on Maine Senator Susan Collins.

Robert Cox broke the story in today’s DC Examiner, as he described the efforts of Senator Collins’ Internet director, Lance Dutson, to list the anti-MoveOn.org ads with Google:

Internet giant Google has banned advertisements critical of MoveOn.org, the far-left advocacy group that caused a national uproar last month when it received preferential treatment from The New York Times for its “General Betray Us” message.

The ads banned by Google were placed by a firm working for Republican Sen. Susan Collins’ re-election campaign. Collins is seeking her third term.

Earlier this week, Google told Lance Dutson, president of Maine Coast Designs, that the ads he placed for Collins had been removed and would not be allowed to resume because they violated Google’s trademark policy.

Google’s Web site states, “Google takes allegations of trademark infringement very seriously and, as a courtesy, we’re happy to investigate matters raised by trademark owners.” That suggests Google acted in response to a complaint by MoveOn.org.

As Cox notes (in my bolded emphasis), if I assume Google’s intentions as pure until proven evil, I can then only assume that they were contacted by MoveOn.org and pulled the ads in compliance. As far as I can tell, that’s the only way to explain why literally thousands of other ads with trademark “violations” remain on Google searches, including this one for “Blackwater”, also the name of a private security firm whose recent actions in Iraq have come under scrutiny.

Unless, of course, Google is quicker to support its political allies in their efforts to crush dissent via questionable trademark law?

Lance has more, including a chat transcript with a Google rep. And of course, this story will blossom as the various parties at fault work diligently to cover it up. Stay tuned!

Disclosure: I occasionally partner with Lance on various projects.

Blogging doesn’t need- and shouldn’t have- a code of conduct

Tim O’Reilly, owner of O’Reilly Media, recently proposed a blogging code of conduct in light of recent threats against blogger Kathy Sierra and the ensuing controversy that arose around the discussion of those threats.

While this is obviously a move born of positive intentions, I think that a blogging code of conduct is a terribly misguided idea.

Clearly, a community such as the blogosphere does not condone terrifying threats: the outpouring of support for Kathy Sierra demonstrated that fact. In addition, the blogosphere is also regarded, I believe rightly so, as a community willing and often able to commit acts of self-reflection, analysis, and adjustment. In that context, it’s difficult to see how any kind of codification could serve to do anything beyond artificially limit and stifle speech and the interactions that arise from it.

In short, what we have is a community fully adept at policing itself, the positive and group-building effects of which are infinitely more powerful than any kind of codification could hope to be.

If you need a code to interact from, define one for yourself, and by all means live by it– heck, even publicize for your readers to consider. And if it’s in line with norms, or catches on (lord knows the blogosphere is nothing if not self-policing…and trend happy), who knows? Maybe your code will be adopted informally, organically, subconsciously, where it might, just might, have a positive impact. Anything less natural is destined to fail, and by its definition limit our collective speech in the process.

As blogging comes of age, growing pains persist

A few comments on the latest political/blog scandal. First, some background. This time around, liberal blogger Amanda Marcotte, recently hired to run presidential candidate John Edwards’ campaign blog, is being criticized for a variety of blog posts she’s written at her personal site, Pandagon.

As to be expected, liberal bloggers are rising to her defense, while conservatives are, without calling for her removal (and I count threeone who think she should stay), commenting on the issue and re-publishing her thoughts on issues from Hurricane Katrina to the Catholic church.

What was said?

So that we’re clear on some of those comments, and please note that the following contain graphic language that may not be suitable for all ages, here are some of Ms. Marcotte’s writings, as re-published at ABC News blog Pushback:

ON THE CATHOLIC TEACHINGS ON BIRTH CONTROL:

Last year, Marcotte blasted the Catholic Church’s position on birth control: “Q: What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit? A: You’d have to justify your misogyny with another ancient mythology.” (Side note: Would there be a different reaction if John Edwards “blogmaster” had insulted Islam to this degree? Is it “okay” to trash Catholicism–but not Islam?)

ON THE DUKE RAPE CASE:

“I had to listen to how the poor, dear lacrosse players at Duke are being persecuted just because they held someone down and f***** her against her will–not rape, of course, because the charges have been thrown out. Can’t a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it? So unfair.”

ON REPUBLICAN VOTERS:

“Voters who are motivated by misogyny, homophobia, and racism aren’t going to leave a racist, misogynist, homophobic party for one that is all those things but just less so.”

Clearly, these are not simply liberal opinions expressed with power or wit. Rather, they’re pretty disturbing, irrational comments that I would sincerely hope do not represent the general tone of the Edwards– or any other– campaign for president.

So…should she be fired?

But do these comments– as disturbing as they are– mean Ms. Marcotte should be fired?

With respect to the issue of a political campaign firing a blogger for controversial things he or she has written in the past, I don’t think a precedent should be set that any blogger should be fired for simply publishing any controversial thoughts- in fact, this should be obvious, that tends to be one of the reasons they’re hired in the first place.

However, to me that’s not the real issue here. The real issue is not that Ms. Marcotte published some controversial ideas, as some of the liberal bloggers on this case would have us believe. Rather, the issue to me is whether or not the particular things she’s said are in line with how the Edwards campaign wishes to portray itself.

If Ms. Marcotte’s published writings are not in line with the beliefs of the Edwards campaign, I think there can only be two reasonable courses of action going forward:

1) The Edwards campaign should immediately fire Ms. Marcotte and apologize for the decision to hire somebody whose writings are outside of the scope of rational political discourse.

2) OR, the Edwards campaign should immediately release a statement roughly along the lines of this:

It has recently come to our attention that Amanda Marcotte, a blogger we tapped to manage the John Edwards campaign blog, has published a number of comments on a personal blog that millions of Americans may find in poor taste.

While we do not agree with or condone Ms. Marcotte’s previous comments, we did not hire her based on them either. We will continue to welcome Ms. Marcotte as a member of the John Edwards campaign team, with the mutual understanding that she regrets offending people and plans to speak positively about political issues on the Edwards campaign website going forward.

Either way, this should happen soon, and decisively, and the campaign should then immediately announce some kind of “free beer for all Americans” program or something equally as earth-shattering.

That’s not the end of this issue though. Far from it.

The argument for failed hires- and for moving on.

A few bloggers have made the point that the Edwards team should have done a more thorough vetting of Ms. Marcotte’s blog and other public writings before bringing her on and placing themselves in the middle of such a difficult situation. Fair (and obvious) enough! But now at least one blogger is arguing that the campaign should live with their bad hire and carry on.

What?!!

Anybody who has even been remotely involved in the managing of a company or organization that aims to be successful has to understand that making the wrong hire does happen. You don’t want it to, but it will happen from time to time. And when you realize you’ve made a mistake, the best thing you can do is cut ties with the scandal as quickly and as completely as possible. Nothing short of that makes any sense for the ongoing success of your organization.

In fact, when the scandal becomes too big to manage, a decent person in Ms. Marcotte’s position, particularly if that person professes to support the organization in question (as Ms. Marcotte has expressed support for Edwards’ campaign), should take the responsibility and immediately recuse him or herself from that difficult position. That’s called honor, and it’s rare.

Mis-direction and revenge

Something else beyond Ms. Marcotte’s comments really bothers me here, and that is the way in which many liberal bloggers have chosen to defend Ms. Marcotte.

Without addressing her comments directly, Glenn Greenwald chose to talk about the rude comments of a conservative blogger.

Without addressing her comments directly, Daily Kos diarist Kagro X suggested that other Democratic candidates circle the wagons around Edwards.

Without addressing her comments directly, Shakespeare’s Sister blogger Waveflux commented on one of Ms. Marcotte’s critics.

And most disturbing of all in my opinion are the comments from Chris Bowers, writer at the popular liberal blog MyDD. Short of addressing the particulars of Ms. Marcotte’s comments– should we then assume he supports them?–Bowers instead launches a pretty bold threat directly at the Edwards campaign:

I have a pretty vicious rant and an important action alert lined up, but I am waiting to hear from the Edwards camp about the fate of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan before doing anything…But like I said, I am waiting before letting loose.

Bowers goes on to reference a straw poll at liberal blog DailyKos, commenting that “Either way, [Edwards] won’t be tied with Barack Obama in Dailykos straw polls anymore. It will be hard in one direction or the other” (emphasis mine).

In a later post, Bowers continue to actively threaten the Edwards camp, writing that “If someone is willing to stand with us, that should mean something big, and should not go unrewarded.”

Bowers’ message here is loud and clear: We don’t care what she said, whether or not it’s offensive, or any effect it might have on “our” candidate– we only care that one of “our own” is being threatened.

Could Bowers be any more direct? Fire Ms. Marcotte, and he will “let loose” on the Edwards campaign with a “vicious rant” (the same kind that Marcotte writes, I wonder?). However, if Edwards does what Bowers wants, then that “should not go unrewarded”.

These are pretty direct, and audaciously arrogant, threats for a liberal blog to make at a presidential candidate. Particularly when they are accompanied by a deafening lack of comment about exactly what Ms. Marcotte has written and its potential effects on the electorate.

This is a soggy, pathetic affair, and it reflects poorly on the entire blogosphere. Sadly, it will also likely have a negative effect on the prospects of talented, intelligent, and reasonable bloggers being hired by not just political campaigns, but by organizations on the whole.

And like many things, the initial situation was unfortunate. But the cover-up is turning out to be much worse.

UPDATE: Welcome Michelle Malkin readers! Thanks to Michelle for the pointer.

Lance Dutson making history as credentialed blogger

Lance Dutson

Photo: John Patriquin for the Portland Press Herald

Lance Dutson

More great and well-deserved press for my friend Lance Dutson, who will be making history next week as one of the first ever bloggers credentialed to cover a federal court case.

According to the Portland Press Herald, Lance will travel to D.C. next week to cover the trial of former Bush administration official Scooter Libby. The credentials for two bloggers– a rotating stable that will include Dutson and at least three others– were arranged by Media Bloggers Association, for which Lance serves as web developer. MBA president Robert Cox, who brokered the deal, told The Washington Post “The history of where blogging is going to go is not defined. It could go in a very positive direction or it could go in a very negative direction,” Cox said. “We have to do more than just sit on our hands and see what happens.”

This is great news, as anybody who follows the business of blogging can easily recognize. Best of luck to Lance and the other bloggers covering the trial.

Disclosure: Lance is my good friend and podcast co-host. I am former web developer and Board of Directors member for Media Bloggers Association.

Lance won…this round

Congratulations to Lance Dutson, who is free from the legal black cloud imposed on him by Warren Kremer Paino Advertising. The agency dropped their lawsuit Friday, though they made no public comment on the matter. Cowards, to the end.

In his latest post on the now seven-month-long Pay-Per-Gate saga, Lance thanked his own legal council, along with Media Bloggers Association and our (disclosure: I am a board member) legal and public relations support. He also mentioned the work of Maine state rep Stephen Bowen, who just yesterday publicized a letter he wrote to Maine’s governor’s office asking that Warren Kremer Paino advertising’s state contract be investigated.

More on this soon…

Maine Rep calls for Office of Tourism investigation

In his ongoing ethical and now legal battle with inept state government officials and contractors, Lance Dutson has finally received meaningful public help from a State of Maine government official, some five months after his original reporting.

Today, Maine Representative Stephen Bowen (R – Rockport) announced he has asked Maine’s economic commissioner to suspend the contract of Warren Kremer Paino pending the resolution of the ad agencies lawsuit against Lance.

If you’re just joining this story, catch up here on Lance’s site.

Here’s Representative Bowen’s letter to the state economic commissioner, which does a nice job of summarizing this case. Here’s the biggest takeaway from his letter for me, a fellow resident and taxpayer in Maine:

Working for the state means being answerable to the people,” said Rep. Bowen, who has been involved in the ongoing feud between Dutson and the state’s tourism officials since early this year. At the time, Dutson’s online criticisms of the tourism program brought on retaliatory emails to his business clients from one the state’s other tourism contractors, Nancy Marshall Communications. “Lance has the right to criticize state officials and contractors, and what has happened to him is outrageous and totally unacceptable,” said Rep. Bowen.

This is a commendable action by Representative Bowen, Lance’s state rep, and the only person on Maine’s payroll who has lifted as much as finger in Lance’s advocacy since the onset of this now national scandal.

As I’ve stated previously, when the dust settles here the real story will not be the clueless old-world ad agency that bungled themselves into a corner- those are a dime a dozen nowadays. Rather, it will be the abysmally poor behavior of the folks paid by and entrusted with our tax dollars. May they lose their jobs and be forced to find jobs in and meet the demands of the private sector, where intelligence, adaptation, and accountability all mean something.

MBA announces support for Lance Dutson

As I reported earlier, the Media Bloggers Association has stepped up to assisnt in the defense of Maine blogger Lance Dutson against the multi-million dollar federal lawsuit he has been served with by Warren Kremer Paino, the ad agency of record for the State of Maine Office of Tourism.

The MBA (disclosure: I am a board member) is working to publicize Lance’s case in an effort to shine a light on his accusers and their actions. Furthermore, the MBA’s legal council, Ronald Coleman, is participating in Lance’s defense of this action.

From the MBA’s announcement:

“This case is nothing more than an attempt by a deep-pocketed litigant to bully a blogger for criticizing state officials and state contractors””, said MBA President Robert Cox. “We have successfully defended MBA members in nine previous cases and I don¹t expect the outcome here to be be any different.”

Dutson went public this morning with news of the lawsuit and provided key links here including his account of the events leading up to the lawsuit and the complaint served on Dutson by the local sheriff at his home in Maine. Dutson has vowed to fight.

“The idea that criticism of the state government can be defamatory is absurd”, said Dutson, “This attempt to bludgeon critics of the state government is not going to work.”

Through it’s legal defense initiative, the MBA provides member bloggers with “first line” legal defense, pro bono advice on how best to respond to legal threats related to the member’s blog.

“Bloggers don’t usually have an in-house legal department or high priced outside First Amendment counsel, but they’re at least as likely to need one as any MSM outlet. That’s where we come in,” said MBA General Counsel, Ronald Coleman of the Coleman Law Firm.

Stay tuned to Lance’s MaineWebReport and the Media Bloggers Association website for more news.

Maine blogger sued by Maine Office of Tourism subcontractor

Lance Dutson, the blogger whose ‘Pay-per-gate‘ investigation has uncovered several instances of incompetence by the Maine Office of Tourism and its subcontractors, today announced he has been sued for over a million dollars by Warren Kremer Paino, the Office of Tourism’s advertising agency of record.

This is a devious, frivolous lawsuit, designed to intimidate Dutson into silence, and it should not- and will not- stand. Dutston has decided to stand and fight, and bloggers everywhere should support him by linking to him and publicizing this idiotic abuse of our legal system by the Warren Kremer Paino advertising agency.

Dutson is supported in his fight by an excellent legal team, including the support of Ron Coleman, council for Media Bloggers Association (disclosure: I am on the Board of Directors for the MBA). Coleman and the MBA are a perfect 8-0 in defending lawsuits against bloggers, and I have faith that Dutson’s case will prove to be another victory for bloggers’ rights.

One more thing: Nobody should forget that while the lawsuit has been filed by the Warren Kremer Paino advertising agency, they are involved in this mess as the advertising agency of record for the Maine state Office of Tourism. As a citizen of the state, I fully expect that the Office of Tourism would have something to say in this matter. So, how are they going to respond? Will they come down in favor of the ad agency that is suing one of their citizens for millions of dollars? Or will they stand up for somebody they are supposed to be working on behalf of?

Stay tuned…