There's a bunch of different things being discussed here (and apparently in other forums too!).
1.) Are Google's results relevant?
2.) Do "spam" pages beat "non-spam" pages in the SERPs?
3.) Does Google care if pages that explicitly don't follow their guidelines rank highly for search queries if they are relevant?
4.) Should spammers go to jail, not pass go and not collect $200?
The main reason for my newsletter article was to discuss #3.
My answers to the other questions would be as follows:
#1. Yes, they're still the best. Sure, other engines have decent results too, but it's rare to not find what you're looking for pretty quickly and easily at Google. (As an aside, elsewhere in this thread someone was talking about how other engines aren't as spammy. Well, duh, why would the spammers bother to waste their time spamming other engines that don't bring much traffic?)
#2. Sometimes spam pages do beat non-spam pages in the SERPs. However, I do tend to hear this complaint more from people who aren't real experienced optimizers. Although it's harder to rank highly in Google these days than it was before, most SEOs that have been doing it for many years are not having any problems. It simply takes a bit longer due to the link factor. Most of the sites I optimize are sites that have been around for many years and already have good links, which makes things even easier for me!
#3. The question of the day. I don't know. Maybe GoogleGuy would like to sign up here and let us know. As my newsletter said, I'm starting to seriously believe that as long as they feel the results are relevant than, no, they certainly don't care about the means that got them there. Hope I'm wrong, however.