Great thread. A bit long winded at times, but some interesting concepts and reactions.
I'll reserve comment on the pics, but I think the subject of the pics was well chosen. Imho the only person who could have been better at demonstrating rank Aikido in a photo other than the Doshu would have been Ueshiba M. himself. It helps us understand that the issue is not limited to any one person, style or group but can be an endemic pitfall that we encounter in practice and it can affect us at the highest levels.
In the end, only those who seek to practice honestly and ask themselves the hard questions that come with serious Budo practice may attempt to deal with and avoid these sorts of pitfalls where one's Aikido can only be effective in a false construct of shared delusion.
An interesting manifestation of rank Aikido is often seen also in multi-style seminars and camps, where Aikido shares an equal floor with Judo, Jujutsu etc. What one often sees are groups of Aikidoka (not many) who only train with each other and often take great pains to not train with folks from the other styles who don't help in creating the illusion of effective waza.
I can understand the differentiation between training and demonstration for rank Aikido and that choreography and showmanship are often primary elements of demos. From my experience however, demonstration does not automatically mean unsound technical principles and Ukes taking a dive for otherwise empty technique. The audience is not always folks who don't know what they are looking at or what to look for as regards effective waza. Also, we cannot always depend on our Ukes to behave like trained Poodles in a demo, hence our martial edge and technical precision must still be maintained to deal with the spontaneous and unexpected even in the midst of a demo.
In training there is a place for cooperative practice of waza. This is a necessary stage in learning. But even in this place of cooperation, sound technical principles and structures must be adhered to, else one's practice becomes empty and false imo and movements have no cause and effect. The effects of this sort of practice is easily revealed in the lowest levels of zero resistance randori, where the Tori with poor structure hopes that the contract of shared martial illusion is maintained here and Uke takes a dive without having been influenced by correct tactical movements that result in an honest throw or lock etc.
It is important for us to always seek an honest answer for the hard questions that affect our training and work towards evolution beyond our limitations, even if it is hard to admit our weaknesses. If we start (especially as Yudansha and Instructors) to believe the illusion that what we do in cooperative/polite kata practice in some way relates to serious martial application without some means of error-checking, then all we are doing is aiding in Aikido's martial degeneration. Without Bu, can we still call it Budo? Without honest Aiki, can we still call it Aikido?