tedster - 7:59 pm on Dec 22, 2011 (gmt 0)
Lenny2, understand that I'm not saying Google is right or wrong, I'm just reporting on what I've observed. Also appreciate that even though Eric Schmidt said "brands" are the way out of the internet cesspool, the algo team does not use the term "brand", according to a recent video from Matt Cutts.
Instead the algo team looks at things like trust and authority, and those are measured mostly via links. It's not the total volume of links but WHO does the linking. So even though you may not have a direct backlink from a high authority .gov website, you may well be just one hop away - or maybe two. All that helps build your trust and authority.