>Imagine you're writing "Gray skirts are fashionable right now." If you want to link to a site that talks about what's "fashionable right now", you'd put the link on that text. <
In the above example, why not just be completely safe, play by G's rules (which ALREADY totally FORCE us to violate what HTML was invented for and how it was intended to be used in SO many ways anyhow) and make it read something like "Gray skirts are fashionable right now... But don't just take MY word for it, check this article at: 'example.com'" and put the link only around "example.com" or their "company name" IF it's mainly a brand and doesn't contain any critical keywords. Or how about: "don't know what a gray skirt looks like? See: 'Wiki---'" "looking to buy gray skirts, visit the 'famous skirt store' site." Yes, it is awkward and poor style (see disclaimer at top about G) but the linked site will still get the generic link PR, you'll get the so-called-authority if such exists, your readers get the benefit of additional information, and G can go F@#$ themselves, do their own jobs, and try to figure out what the heck the destination page is all ABOUT on their own. After all that's apparently what they want so it's a win-win-win-(win?).
Also, on the topic of "Good" sites in the title, when linking anywhere, avoid short term events (i.e. a conference registration site/page for next month) or sites without long-standing records (I know it's cruel and unfair to start-ups, but so true these days) unless you know you'll remember to come back, check and remove it every month if necessary, otherwise you can wind up accidentally linking into 'bad neighborhoods' when the site is allowed to expire by the original owner and bought up by a spammer and redirected or modified for it's prior traffic. Checking periodically on small (<100 page) sites isn't so bad, but when you get into the 1000's of pages, it's impossible without good automation software.
>debate about the possibility that Google considers it spammy...<
I can't imagine that. I'll have to research this. Especially coming from a company whose name is now a verb and all but synonymous with the term 'search engine'. Although it would explain why G doesn't show up on the first two pages of a G-search for "search engine."