I just talked to Goo by phone for a very long time asking them to remove my $10 minimum bids because I had added unique/useful content over the last few months and wanted to try again.
They told me that it was a common misconception that they are able to remove the $10 minimum bids manually and they told me that the "penalty" is never applied manually.
He told me to restart my campaigns and wait for the bot. He also told me that performance in Adwords has no affect on natural search in any shape or form. Just in case anyone might have attributed their -30 or -950 to being nuked in Adwords.
There is definitely a Manual component to the penalty. One of my sites was hit in last QS update. It has been a long time since I changed the whole look and feel, added clear navigation..lots of additional content, reduced ads to one block per page (after the articles). No change in QS. The bot seems to be dead.
It doesn't make sense that the penalty is not manually applied and lifted, but this is what they told me yesterday. I read the same stuff you did back in june on this board and I got it into my head that only Google employees could lift it.. He told me that's what a lot of webmasters call asking them to do but they can't. I still halfway believe that they can.
Then again it would take a tremendous amount of manpower to do it manually and Google has a long history of relying on algos. Think about how long it would take humans to do a manual and thorough review of your site over and over again. They have a hard enough time just manually reviewing ad copy in a timely fashion.
I read that case study and he said he never called Google.. I really think the best thing to do is to use a new domain and have backup domains ready to roll in case they get you again.
I added a new ad group yesterday and it immediately was at $10. just one keyword, the name of my site.. It's still at $10 today.. They refused to tell me any specifics as to why it was at $10 or what I needed to do.. Just kept trying to send me to the uselessly vague help page they've setup.