tedster, thanks for the links. I read both of those threads end-to-end and my two penalized sites are clean for all but one issue mentioned.
One of my two penalized sites has another site which has copied it -- and then cloaked on top of the content. The search engines see my content and regular visitors see spammy pages about teleconferencing.
My other penalized site has no similar duplicate content issues.
I do not believe that the duplicate my content issue is the cause of my current difficulties.
So here is where I am:
1. I believe that my sites are penalized.
2. I believe that my sites are clean.
3. I believe that my reinclusion requests are going unread.
#1 is inarguable. I've gone back to #2 hundreds of times. I have gone so far as to remove the link to the parent (publishing) company from the penalized sites, worrying that Google could see that as inappropriate interlinking. I've tried #3 many times, all with zero effect.
What should be my next step?