Lawyers of Distinction: the Scam Continues

There it was again – – an advertisement in the Sunday New York Times congratulating “Lawyers of Distinction.” 

The Feb. 20, 2022 ad, like others in previous years, welcomed the newest honorees. This time there was one from Oregon,Natalie Hedman Esq., a family and divorce lawyer in Gresham. According to the Lawyers of Distinction’s website, Hedman is one of 25 Oregon member lawyers recognized for excellence in the practice of law.* 

Sounds impressive, until you dig deeper. 

About all that’s required to be named a “Lawyer of Distinction” is to apply yourself or be nominated, fill out some online forms and pay a fee. It’s like diploma mills that claim to be higher education institutions, but only provide illegitimate academic degrees and diplomas for a fee.

“There’s a sucker born every minute,” is a phrase often attributed to P. T. Barnum, an American showman. It’s apparently true with respect to the attorneys who buy “Lawyers of Distinction” memberships as well as members of the public who are misled by them. 

The Lawyers of Distinction website makes the application and review process sound complex. 

According to the website, it includes a review and vetting process by a Selection Committee. That involves an analysis of a candidate’s work, experience and abilities based upon 12 independent criteria using a platform spelled out under U.S. Provisional Patent #62/743,254. Once a final score is generated, an applicant is subjected a final background check and Ethics Review. Applicants who achieve a minimum passing score and have no disqualifying ethical violations within a 10-year period prior to completion of the application are then eligible for acceptance to Lawyers of Distinction.

Sounds tough and thorough.

Don’t believe it.

 Essentially, it’s just pay-for-play. It’s selling badges.  It’s paying for meaningless accolades. Apply, pay the annual membership fee and you’re in.

According to the Florida Division of Corporations, “Lawyers of Distinction Inc.” is a private for-profit company with a principal address of 4700 Millenia Boulevard, Suite 175, Orlando, FL 32839. 

4700 Millenia Blvd., Orlando, FL

Robert (Robbie) Brian Baker at the same address is listed as the President in the company’s 2020 Annual Report. But don’t go there expecting to be ushered into an office with a clean, modern aesthetic that communicates success. The address is identified online as nothing more than an “Orlando Virtual Business Address & Live Receptionist Answering Service.”

Lawyers of Distinction is a sign of the overabundance of lawyers, leading some to try to elevate themselves with impressive, but meaningless, awards. The ads the organization places in multiple publications are fake news at its most blatant and deceptive. 

Some lawyers may want the Lawyers of Distinction plaque on their wall to bolster their self-esteem, even though in their heart they know the plaque is meaningless piece of junk. Maybe they want to add a plaque to their office brag wall. Maybe the “honor” adds glamour to what some lawyers describe as mind-numbing work.

Whatever their reasons for signing up, Hedman and the other 24 Oregon lawyers, including one on the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors, who are lauded as Lawyers of Distinction shouldn’t be proud; they should be embarrassed. 

*Lawyers listed as “Top Rated Lawyers in Oregon” and “Charter Members” on Distinquished Lawyers website






KEVIN EIKE, Portland


ANDY GREEN, Portland





MYAH KEHOE, Portland

SUSAN LAIN, Lake Oswego





ILENE M. MUNK, Portland







Eileen Gu Wants to Have Her Cake and Eat It, Too

Olympian standout, Eileen Gu, clearly wants it all. The 18-year-old California native wants the Olympic medals, the modeling jobs, the rich sponsorships, and public adulation. But she also wants to be both an American and Chinese hero.

The perky, confident young woman, who goes by the name Eileen Gu in the US and Gu Ailing in China, was born in San Francisco, CA to a Chinese mother who was born in Beijing and emigrated to the United States. 

Neither Gu nor her mother have disclosed any information about her father other than to say he is an American-born graduate of Harvard University.  For some unexplained reason, American media have not verified that information, simply noting that there is no public record of her father. Even The New York Times has apparently accepted Gu declining to comment when asked if she knows anything about her father. It’s not clear why much of American media is treating her with such kid gloves.

In June 2019, when she was a 15-year-old child, Gu announced that she would switch country affiliations and compete for China in the Beijing Games. “This was an incredibly tough decision for me to make,” Gu wrote on Instagram, “The opportunity to help inspire millions of young people where my mom was born, during the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help to promote the sport I love. Through skiing, I hope to unite people, promote common understanding, create communication, and forge friendships between nations.”

But had she given up her American citizenship?

In February 2021, Forbes reported that Gu had announced on Instagram that she had become a naturalized Chinese citizen and planned to compete for China in the 2022 Beijing Games. But that was incorrect. Gu had said only, “I have decided to compete for China in the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics.”

The International Olympic Committee requires athletes to hold passports for the countries they represent, and China says it does not accept dual citizenship.

” …state media have previously reported that the 18-year-old renounced her U.S. citizenship after she became a Chinese national at the age of 15,” Reuters reported. But Gu herself has repeatedly dodged questions on her citizenship. And so far, she’s gotten away with it. 

“She tends to avoid questions of geopolitics in interviews,” the New York Times reported earlier this month. “When I’m in the U.S., I’m American, but when I’m in China, I’m Chinese,” Gu has said.

“Nobody can deny I’m American, nobody can deny I’m Chinese,” Gu was quoted in the South China Morning Post.

In December 2021, when the media asked Gu about China during a slope-side interview in Colorado, her sports agent, Tom Yaps, tried to end the interview. “I’ll pass,” Gu said. “There’s no need to be divisive.”

ESPN reported  on Feb. 1, 2022 that after The Wall Street Journal inquired about a story on Red Bull’s website that mentioned Gu had indeed given up her U.S. passport, the passage disappeared from the story without explanation.

Conjecture on her citizenship status arose when she registered for the US Presidential Scholars Program in 2021. Applicants are required to be US citizens or legal permanent U.S. residents to be eligible for the program. Gu did not, however, get into the program. 

Gu will also face questions when she registers for Stanford, where she has been admitted. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security requires that international students have F-1 or J-1 visas. 

Wherever the citizenship issue settles, Gu has already felt the sting of some Americans who see her as abandoning the US for personal gain.

And if China continues to treat Gu as one of their own, there may be ramifications if she falters down the road that she likely did not consider at the tender age of 15. (It’s interesting that the media has not paid much attention to the fact that Gu made her decision at such a young age, in contrast to the media attention given to concerns about all the pressure put on Kamila Valieva, the 15-year-old Russian phenom who was allowed to compete even after disclosure that she tested positive in December for trimetazidine, a drug that boosts blood flow to the heart.)

Figure skater Zhu Yi knows how things can turn. A U.S. born athlete with Chinese parents who is competing at the Olympics for China, Zhu Yi came under blistering attack in China when she crashed into a wall during a team event and was blamed for pushing her team into fifth place.

“There’s no next time,” a Weibo user, posted under a video of Zhu crying at the end of her performance. “How shameful.” The comment was liked more than 45,000 times.

“Go back to America,” read another comment accompanied by a US flag emoji.

Gu may also face Chinese criticism if she continues her outspoken support for girls and women in a country where gender roles are much more rigid and feminist activism is discouraged.

She has racked up an impressive number of sponsorships deals with Chinese companies, including Bank of China, China Mobile, Luckin’ Coffee, that are said to be worth millions. She has also become a highly bankable model in China and globally. In China, she’s been on the cover of Chinese editions of GQ and Elle. And as guest editor of Vogue China’s Gen-Z-focused bimonthly issue, Vogue+.

But Chinese sponsors, like American corporations, can be fickle and gun shy in the face of controversy. And controversy can come out of nowhere in Xi Jinping’s China.

Portland Gets an “F ” on Fiscal Honesty

Portland has been trying to pull fast one. 

The city claims it “operates on a tough set of financial controls” to ensure it balances its annual budget. 

It doesn’t.

According to a report recently released by a nonprofit, Truth in Accounting (TIA), in order to “balance the budget” Portland has been failing to include its true costs, pushing costs onto future taxpayers. 

“Despite receiving support from COVID relief grants and other federal programs, Portland remained in dire fiscal shape during the onset of the pandemic ,” the Report said.

TIA examined the nation’s 75 most populous cities. At the end of FY 2020, 61 of them did not have enough money to pay all their bills. 

Grades of A to F were assigned to the 61 cities to give greater context to each city’s Taxpayer Burden or Taxpayer Surplus.  TIA divides the amount of money needed to pay bills by the number of city taxpayers to come up with the Taxpayer Burden. 

The “D” and “F” grades apply to governments that have not balanced their budgets and have significant Taxpayer Burdens. No cities received A’s, 14 received B’s, 26 received C’s, 29 received D’s.

Six cities received Fs for failing grades. One of those was Portland.

“…government officials are responsible for reporting their actions and the results in ways that are truthful and comprehensible to the electorate,” the TIA Report says. “Providing accurate and timely information to citizens and the media is an essential part of government responsibility and accountability.”

One of the ways Portland makes its budgets look balanced is by shortchanging public pension and Other Postemployment Benefits (OPEB) that it provides to retired employees, according to the Report. These benefits principally involve health care benefits, but also may include life insurance, disability, legal and other services.

In other words, Portland has been using some of the money that’s been owed to cover pension and OPEB costs to keep taxes low instead and to pay for politically popular programs without real accountability.

Portland was ranked one of the poorest performing cities at the end of FY20 in terms of its taxpayer burden, the report says.   Because the city didn’t have enough money to pay its bills, it had a $5.6 billion financial hole.  To erase this shortfall, each Portland taxpayer would have had to send $24,900 to the city.  That was up substantially from $18,800 at the end of FY15.

“Portland’s overall financial condition (from FY19) worsened by $1.2 billion mostly because the city’s Fire and Police Disability and Retirement Plan had no assets and it is assumed that the plan will have to borrow money to pay benefits.,” the report says. “Overall, the city had set aside only 36 cents for every dollar of promised pension benefits and eight cents for every dollar of promised retiree health care benefits. 

“Portland has been in poor fiscal shape for years.,” the TIA report said. 

Time to stand up and fix things.

The Spotify Conundrum: Mixing Music and Morality

Rogan Responds to Spotify Controversy, Young Defects to Amazon

Mixing music and morality can get tricky.

Last week, musician Neil Young set off fireworks when he demanded that his music be pulled off the audio streaming service Spotify because he objected to its high visibility podcaster, Joe Rogan, spreading alleged Covid misinformation.

Claiming the moral high ground, Young wrote in a letter published on his website on Jan. 24, “I am doing this because Spotify is spreading fake information about vaccines — potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them.”

Others have jumped enthusiastically on Young’s condemnation train, including Joni Mitchell,  Nils Lofgren, India Arie, Dwayne Johnson, Kevin James, Jewel, Jamie Kennedy, Tulsi Gabbard, Troy Aikman, Kat Von D, Domanic Monaghan, Candice Owens, Jillian Michaels, Tomi Lahren and Andrew Dice Clay.

On Feb. 3, Roxane Gay, an author and a contributing Opinion writer for The New York Times decided she needed to join the fray, wrote an opinion column for The New York Times announcing shew was pulling her podcast, “The Roxane Gay Agenda,” from Spotify.

Also signing on to the crusade — David Crosby, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills. “Until real action is taken to show that a concern for humanity must be balanced with commerce, we don’t want our music — or the music we made together — to be on the same platform,” they said in a statement.

Even Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, endorsed Young’s action on Twitter. 

So where did uber-moral Young direct his listeners as one of the acceptable alternative music streaming services?  Amazon. Clearly he did not consider the negative consequences of his well-intentioned actions.

In a Twitter post, Young included a link for new subscribers signing up for Amazon Music and saying they can receive four months free.  “Amazon has been leading the pack in bringing Hi-Res audio to the masses, and it’s a great place to enjoy my entire catalog in the highest quality available,” Young said.

Talk about jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire!

Amazon is hardly a paragon of virtue either.

The company has been accused of:

  • Using data about products offered by independent sellers on the company’s platform to develop competing products.
  • Vigorously opposing trade unions at its massive warehouses.
  • Directly or indirectly benefiting from forced labor of Uyghur peoples in internment camps in Xinjiang, China and at factories in major supply chains.

In other words, Amazon is a poster child for questionable business practices.

Amazon is also already a dominant player, with Amazon Marketplace accounting for about 25% of all online spending in America, meaning a quarter out of every dollar spent online goes to the marketplace. You’d have to combine the next five mass-market retailers (Walmart, eBay, Apple, The Home Depot and Target) to equal its size.

And it keeps spreading out, invading every part of our lives. In 2020, Amazon announced Amazon Pharmacy, a new store on Amazon that allows customers to complete an entire pharmacy transaction on their desktop or mobile device through the Amazon App. In January 2022, Amazon, already  the largest clothing retailer in America since it started selling clothing in 2002, announced it planned to open Amazon Style, its first clothing, shoe and accessories’ store, later this year at a posh shopping complex in Los Angeles. 

Do all these high minded critics of Spotify really think Amazon is a more ethical socially conscious company than Spotify? Is it really wise to direct even more business its way, as Young suggests?

I think not.