[Like if I post an article from another blog on my site, in part or in whole, with a link back to the original article, will Google ding me for dupe content and bury me in search results?]
There is no duplicate content penalty, it’s just a myth. However, you could be dinged for copyright violations. Copying content without permission could get your pages de-indexed, or even lead to legal claims.
The bottom line: Get permission, or limit it to reasonable use, no more than 4 or 5 sentences with a link to the source.
Your definition of syndicated content is a bit off. The owner of the content is the syndicator, not the publisher. To syndicate is to sell, or grant, permission to publish. It’s not syndication if your user content without permission, that’s just stealing.
What your post refers to is what I like to call riding the QDF wave. It is a common strategy for bloggers. The QDF feature of Google Search will temporarily boost fresh content so users can more easily find late-breaking information. It is a good strategy for bloggers, however I wouldn’t ignore normal SEO for your permalinks, that would just be wasting content.