Looks like you answered your own question. ;)
Come on Steve, are you playing devils advocate or do you really believe what you're saying? The Update thread is a litany of how all the sites in Google are crap websites. Unless you've had your head in the ground it's common knowledge there's tension between webmasters who would place their sites at the top of Google and Google engineers who have a job making sure it doesn't happen.
Why do you think they employ people with titles like, Manager of Search Quality? Why do you think they hired all those statisticians? One of the reasons is to map patterns of what a legit site looks like and identify those that are trying to game the system. I thought this was pretty well known, but maybe not everyone got the memo.