Friday, May 28, 2010

Books I'm reading

The Jews of Arab lands
A History and Source Book
By Norman A. Stillman - 1979

Some might know that I am an Egyptian Jew.

The subject, therefore, has periodically fascinated me.

Norman A. Stillman, an Associate Professor of History and Arabic at the State University of New York at Binghamton, has written a classic book of reference on a subject that has not attracted as much attention as it should. At least, this is the opinion of people like me, who are very close to becoming the "Last of the Mohicans" of a millenarian civilization in the lands of the Middle East.

In our days of erudite analysis and opinions about the roots of the Israeli-Arab conflict, re-reading this book can put them in a new perspective.

While it is generally accepted that Jewish life under Islamic rulers was fairly acceptable in contrast with medieval European persecutions, Norman Stillman's book brings about some significant facts that could definitely alter this line of thought.

The book is divided in two parts: the History and the Sources.

I was mostly interested in the Sources which is a vast and rich collection of translations and excerpts of Notes and Documents now existing in Archives, Museums and Public Records.

While I must acknowledge the often more tolerant Islamic rulers, Jews as members of the "Dhimmis" or non-Muslim minorities, were in fact a discriminated and persecuted part of that society, with variable experiences and rights according to the ebb and flow of thirteen centuries of Arab and Turkish rule. So, if you heard of pogroms, massacres and injustices in the lands of Europe, they have also existed here.

Both parts of the book are enlightening. Of course, the book was written by a Jew.
But Stillman's intelligence and wide perspective validate this substantial contribution to Middle East History.

This is not the usual posting on a real estate blog. But this is also my personal blog and I have been told that I can post here whatever goes through my mind.
It doesn't mean that you have to stop selling or buying homes from me. God Forbid.
Take it as a cup of Turkish coffee, while we take a pause and relax.

Reading books is sadly an "endangered species" in human culture. Lately, I am reading more books and less newspapers, websites, and magazines. Don't ask why.

Commenting about a good book is perhaps as good as giving my friends a good restaurant address, do you agree?

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
Visit my website:
where you can search for Golden Beach Real Estate

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More conflicts between buyers and developers

Buyer goes after Related assets in condo lawsuit

A Coral Gables law firm is seeking to garnish Related Group assets for failing to pay a condo depositor despite a Miami-Dade Circuit judge’s order.

The company was ordered to pay Rafael Maldonado $16,388 after Circuit Judge Jon I. Gordon sided with the would-be buyer, who demanded the return of a portion of his down payment after he failed to close on the condo under a 2005 contract. Maldonado’s attorneys, Robert G. Post and Carlos A. Romero with Post & Romero, say it’s a story they’ve heard too frequently since the housing market crashed: a developer engaging in delaying tactics and not returning deposits.

The funds remain in an escrow under the control of Chicago Title Insurance. Romero said the company will not release the funds without authorization from Related. Romero’s firm filed a motion for a writ of garnishment against the company Monday. Escrow account managers at Chicago Title’s Florida offices did not return calls for comment before deadline. Although the April 13 judgment does not state when the funds should be paid, Romero cites a state law that allows for collection on the judgment after 10 days if the defense doesn’t post bond or seek an appeal. Monday was the 27th day.

“It seems to me that if the developer just wanted to pay, it would have done so in 2009 without making an innocent party jump so many hoops unnecessarily. These delay tactics continue to be seen and felt by innocent buyers,” Romero said.

He said the developer’s in-house counsel, Elizabeth E.S. Hollander, is now coming up with reasons to justify delaying payment. “This in-house counsel took the position that they had a ‘reasonable amount’ of time to pay the judgment,” Romero wrote in an e-mail Monday. “The judgment neither reflects nor provides for postponement of payment for any time, let alone a reasonable period of time.” Hollander, Related’s assistant associate general counsel, argues the judge’s order could be interpreted to allow the company to disburse funds at a later time, according to an e-mail provided by Post & Romero. Hollander declined comment.

The company’s lead attorney in the case, Related vice president and associate general counsel Betsy McCoy, did not return calls by deadline. The final judgment ordered the company to pay Maldonado a portion of his deposit. He put down $59,780 on a $298,900 unit on the 11th floor of the Arquitectonica-designed 500 Brickell West Tower condominium. Gordon ordered Related to return 25 percent of the deposit plus interest as required by the purchase contract. When Maldonado found the unit in 2005, the Puerto Rican attorney thought it was a perfect fit.

He was looking for a small condo near the heart of the city, a place to stay during short visits to see his mother and sister. The one-bedroom unit was just a few steps from the gym, on the same floor as the swimming pool and had a sunset-view balcony. When the housing bubble burst, the condo lost value, and Maldonado — who represents developers — decided to pull out of the deal and keep a portion of the deposit. “The worst part is they sold the apartment to someone else, and they haven’t paid me my miserable 25 percent.

I’m losing a considerable amount of money,” Maldonado said Tuesday. “I’ve been dealing with canceling this for over a year now.” Related, which uses the motto “Redefining cities and skylines” on its Web site, was one of Miami’s most prolific condo builders during the boom years and became a national leader in the industry.

Like many other developers, Related went into contraction mode, recently pulling out as a partner in the Trump Towers luxury condo in Sunny Isles Beach.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
Visit my website:
where you can search for Golden Isles Real Estate

Friday, May 07, 2010

BP's disaster, Offshore Drilling, and Florida

In September 2009 I endorsed, on this blog, the opposition, by some Florida West Coast politicians, to offshore oil drilling outside Florida Gulf Coast.

For many people, and many of our elected officers, it might have seemed "sensible" to accept taking high stake risks to feed our appetite for fossil energy, as opposed to seeking renewable and non-polluting ways to power our vehicles, factories, and homes.

Is it the easiest way to go?
Nobody is saying so.

Will it work at once?

Is it the only long-term solution?
Hell yes!

Is it only about Global Warming?
Not really.

Is it about a healthier life in a less polluted environment?


Is it economically practical? Won't it destroy our present way of life?

It might not work for a few years, until our present civilization adapts, but nobody can envision a different road to ensure human life for centuries to come.

Will it be a factor in world-wide human happiness?
I believe it will. Lack of adequate sources of energy is a large factor of poverty in many third world countries.

Will it make sense for the US?
It should. Unless you think that dependency on Middle East Sheikhs, Iran's Mullahs, Chavez & Co., is beneficial to our economy and world's democracy.

What is the cost associated to making these big changes happen?
If you factor in the costs of Irak,and other historical wars and conflicts originated in oil dependency, and oil business, it might actually be pretty cheap.

Will somebody lose in these proposals? Why are so many of our policy makers favoring the "drill-drill" ideology?

Actually somebody might have a problem with renewable energy. Perhaps the Big Oil conglomerates? But even these corporations could gradually switch to renewable-energy if they were willing to sacrifice for a few years part of their exorbitant profits.

Here is what I read today in the news, that provoked my thoughts:

From :

Oil issue dead in Florida for now

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – May 4, 2010 – Gov. Charlie Crist declared the issue of drilling off the Florida coast effectively dead Monday as he monitored the latest news surrounding an oil spill caused by an explosion on a BP rig last month.

"It hasn't happened in Florida, but it happened in Louisiana and we may suffer as a result of it," he said. "But I think the timeliness of when this occurred is pretty extraordinary when you think about it because there may have been legislation in this last week that would have permitted it, but for this occurring."

Incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Designate Dean Cannon have pushed for offshore oil drilling in Florida for the past two years. The two have held hearings over the past year on the subject to garner support for the proposal. With the two of them set to lead the two chambers come November 2010, oil drilling was expected to become a major part of their platforms.

A committee led by Cannon had even released a report talking about the potential benefits of drilling.

But when the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, the two incoming leaders were less fervent in their support of drilling, saying they needed to monitor the situation closely and tour the coastal areas.

"We're going to take the entire summer and fall to see, first and foremost, what happened in the Gulf," Haridopolos told reporters last week. "It gives me great pause. But a tragedy does not stop all progress."

Nearly every major candidate for office has weighed in on the issue. Chief Financial Officer and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink called for disaster loans and an oil spill task force Monday afternoon. And Attorney General Bill McCollum said last week that he would veto Cannon's proposal if he were governor because it involved drilling too close to the shore.

"If I'm governor, he'll face a veto on my desk if he brings it up the way it is now," McCollum said last week.

State Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, who is running for attorney general, put out a release saying he was "inalterably opposed" to drilling. What potential Cabinet members think matters because under the proposal as it was last floated, the Cabinet would ultimately decide on new leases.

"I don't think we need to study it, I think we need to reject it outright and put the entire idea where it belongs: in our rear view mirror," Gelber said.

Scott Maddox, a Democratic candidate for agriculture commissioner, held a press conference Monday asking all candidates for Cabinet positions to sign a pledge saying they would not support offshore oil drilling in Florida.

"No state in the nation is dependent on its beaches for tourism the way Florida is," he said.

His Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Bartow, also released a statement saying he was "deeply concerned" about the economic and ecological impact of the spill.

"It is clear to every elected official, from the President on down, that consideration of any new exploration closer to shore needs to be taken off the table and we need to have a thorough investigation into what happened and the inability of the industry to effectively respond," Putnam said.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
Visit my website:
where you can search for Aventura Condos, Florida Condos, Sunny Isles Condos,