tedster - 3:14 pm on Sep 16, 2011 (gmt 0)
I think you're looking at Panda and Google only through the lens of affiliate sites, because that's your niche. Here's why:
1. Panda's impact goes far beyond affiliates. In fact the biggest losers have been article sites and even forums.
2. Panda demotions happen on specific dates, not after quality raters visit.
3. Google has had thousands of human quality raters checking the SERPs for years long before Panda. If that army as grown lately as you say (please share the source for that information) it may also have to do with their new focus on scraper sites.
So I don't think Panda is a smokescreen for an attack on all affiliates. Yes, human quality raters seem to have a new set of much more intense guidelines and many affiliate sites are being affected. And yes, human quality raters focus on higher volume search results... they always have.
I don't believe Google is working to eliminate the affiliate system altogether - but they certainly do seem to be thinning things out quite a bit. The old methods of gaining Google traffic are not working so well, and that is definitely by design.