tv After Words CSPAN January 1, 2015 9:49pm-10:18pm EST
rather spend time with your sister or another family member or this movie star? they tend to choose one signature. they take options to lead to achieving more, getting more, having more stuff but love the possibility of going to allow bar at 2:00 a.m. in the hopes of yelling to one another in the hopes of conversations in meeting someone knew. and there is an older signature that says there is nothing more of a nightmare than that. people there of the number of people they focus on and want deeper relationships, more connections to the people they love, more focused on being and wanting to make sure they have ways in which they have contributions to the world. the fascination about it is as people age the thought was that our brains are changing to make you more wise that way and then she discovered that some of her
folks had a terminal illness especially on the west coast in the early days of hiv-aids. the hiv-aids patients would suddenly shift to having the older signature. then she did the study during september 11. when the world became uncertain and fragile and you are not sure about what was happening everyone moved to a signature of, you no what i would rather be with family, people are found, people off of make sure i am making a difference for them. as time goes on when we are really unaware of our mortality which we are most of our lives then we focus on having achieving where we become aware of the finiteness, limitations of our life because of health
uncertainty of political atmosphere, any variety of reasons. with the bola we suddenly want to focus on people we are connected with an focus on others. that wisdom is a manifestation manifestation of having some perspective on where we are in life. >> it is interesting. i have never heard anybody say i wish i had spent more time at work. >> two kids go off to college and if they said that to me right now i would say, you know know i'm not sure if it is a good idea. if people think they have at least 20 years or so we behaved as if we are in mortal which means we are willing to sacrifice time
for the sake of future achievement and delay gratification. that that makes no sense when you become more aware of the finiteness of time. it is really just a matter of perspective and to have the proper perspective for where you are in your place and time. >> it is great to see you again. congratulations. i loved i loved it and look forward to continuing the conversation. >> thank you. >> great to see you. >> that was "after words" book tv signature program in which authors are interviewed. "after words" airs every weekend on book tv. you can also watch "after words" online. go to booktv.org and click on books and topics in the upper right side of the page
>> now joining us on book tv, dennis johnson, the copublisher of melville house publishing the senate committee report on torture. what is the purpose of publishing something in the public domain? >> for one thing it is not readily available as a print book, and we we thought it was an important format to the end so that it could circulate more widely and be more accessible to more people, be more affordable and findable. we also thought the addition that was issued by the government a low resolution pdf format was difficult to read. it is not laid out and properly formatted. it is a huge collection of manuscript pages.
it is very difficult to read, difficult to search, almost impossible, in fact. we wanted to make a better addition of that. i don't no if people want to read that in addition the way that you would a book but it is more useful for researchers and academics and things like that to have a more searchable edition. >> how much of the report we will you be publishing? we will their be editing commentary? >> we are publishing exactly what the government has released. the full report is over 6,000 pages long but has not been declassified. what has been declassified was declassified in april and only just released this month, the summary report issued by the senate subcommittee which came with an introduction by the head of the committee, diane feinstein. that will all be included as well as all of the notes verifying the documents in
the report. we are not amending anything. we feel that it should be the core document. it should not have any kind of bias or dilute the power of the pure report. >> what goes into publishing a book of this sort where the material is already written? you are organizing it, i guess? >> no, we are not organizing or changing anything. it was issued as a low resolution pdf almost impossible to scan. lots of corruption in the document. this much might be translated as a word trigger repetitions, repetitions, deletions, so
we had to take the document basically retyped reformatted just to be able to lay it out like a proper book so that it would be much more readable. >> interaction, introduction, commentary? >> as i say, just the introduction that is actually part of the summary , an introduction to the findings of the committee written by senator dianne feinstein. >> have you published books like this before? >> no, we have not been allowed to. previously the government has taken these reports such as the 9/11 report or the investigation into the financial crisis and has awarded those books as if they were contracts to larger publishers and gave them the report early so that they could lay it out for the government and publish those books simultaneously with the government's release of the document. i have never quite understood why that was
allowed. they were private -- public documents. the government did not do that this time. in the past the government has even given production money. sen. feinstein seemed opposed to that and so those publishers without that advantage declined to do it. when we realized that what was going on at melville house we decided that these documents must exist as a print book and a more readable digital book. we jumped to do it as quickly as we could but their were all kinds of difficulties in doing that on short notice. it is called crashing a book
it is cracked -- christmas time. it is hard to get into the system. booksellers have already ordered the books for the season, where houses are already shipping, hard to get on the tracks to be distributed, hard to get printed. we had to pull a lot of strings. we had about five consecutive days of the entire staff and a team of volunteers around the clock basically re- transcribing the book, copy it, proof it, compare it to the original make original, make sure we got nothing wrong, lay it out and printed. it has been an amazing five days just trying to jam the book into the system at christmas time. >> is it being published as paperback and e-book? >> that's correct. >> the new york times is reporting your initial print run we will be about 50,000. >> we are getting deluged
with requests for the book that only from booksellers large and small but from libraries and academics asking us how quickly they can get the book. it is looking like that number may have to rise. >> when will it be available? >> the official publication date is december 30. we will have the book printed and in our warehouse friday, three days from now, and we we will start shipping immediately. it may start popping up in various independent bookstores but it we will be fully distributed around the country and available in online, brick and mortar chain bookstores, you name it, december 30. >> dennis johnson, copublisher of melville house, "the senate intelligence committee report on torture". thank you sir. >> thank you.
often have prison records and have been drug dealers and so forth. there's a fellow named jimmy that seems to be one of the main characters of this nonfiction story. can you talk to me about how you connect it with him. >> guest: the way this got started was i talked to my mom a few years back and she told me she was being hounded by a debt collector. she said i don't owe the money he is saying that i owe but i think i'm going to pay him just so he will stop harassing me. my mom was worried so i thought this is bizarre and i started googling it and i saw there was a lot of this going on and actually the epicenter of that
collection in the united states was buffalo. i had in my head that i was going to do a story actually from the collector's perspective on what it's like to collect debt and what the challenges you face in what is your life like. i pitch a story from "the new yorker" just bare bones saying what you think about this. i'm from buffalo and i can probably get someone to talk to me and my editor and my editors at grade, 5000 words when can you give me the coptic? i panicked because i had nothing better went to buffalo once and no one would talk to me. i want a second time and i still have nothing. i started to panic because i was on the hook for this story so i sent messages to everyone i went to high school with in every one of my brother went to high school with and i get one message back from this guy who was jimmy's brother. i got jimmy on the phone and jimmy said to me basically you had better get down here quick if you want to talk to me because my business is
struggling and i don't know how much longer i will be open. if you can show folks how hard my day-to-day life is i will be satisfied. i popped down to buffalo and showed up and jimmy was immediately one of these amazing characters. eloquent and i'm driving around and meeting his family. that becomes my entry point into this world. >> host: he had a struggle. you knew him growing up. you got to know him through a set of correspondence through facebook and so forth. tell us about your history and buffalo and how it has changed from what you knew growing up and in your childhood to the kind of place that it's one of the capitals of debt collection in the united states. >> guest: yeah so buffalo was once this big industrial powerhouse and had all these steel mills and industry starting in the early 80s basically when i was a kid.
that all starts to fall apart and employment goes to the rough and in places with these old industrial jobs collection fills that void. someone told me that buffalo is so good at collections because even though the country's been a great recession since 2008 buffalo has been in since 1979 and people connect with people who are having hard times. so when i was kind of a teenager starting to take form but i don't think i knew about it and even though i went to high school with jimmy and they went to the same high school and it was supposed to be an integrated high school, we came from opposite sides of main street. buffalo is really a segregated city and i didn't have any sense of what really life on the east side of buffalo was like her were jimmy was going through. we could talk about having the same english teacher but it was like we were from totally different worlds. it wasn't until i started reporting the story that all of a sudden i learned when he was in high school whose father was a heroin addict and he became a cocaine dealer after high school
and had gun possession. our lives could not been more diversion. let's get you said the entry point into the rest of the story he has an interesting component of the story something you call the package which seems to be the crux of what you are chasing what the debt collectors -- debt collectors are involved in the book. can you talk about his relationship and let the packages and how that opened up the rest of this amazing story? >> guest: solo yeah so the packages this one piece of debt that i follow through the book and it's helpful to understand that when i talk about the dead being bought and sold here we are just talking about an excel spreadsheet. you have the big banks are creditors and they try for six months to collect on a debt that has not been paid them and they cant they will typically sell about for pennies on the dollar to debt buyers and those debt buyers will collect whatever they can and sell it to the next and the next.
what they are selling is a set of spreadsheet of bare-bones information. >> host: has this information on customers and their balances and where they live? >> guest: the spreadsheet will have the debtor's name social security number address balance date the account was opened and is basically about it. they are just being bought and sold and sent my thumb drives and that is the paper. they call a paper but that's all it really is. as you can imagine it doesn't take much for something to go wrong for some of the fields to get mixed up in the debtor's names to get confused or for someone to sell the same excel spreadsheet to multiple unsuspecting buyers who are collecting on it at once. in my book i follow the passage -- package. it's about $48 billion which is bought for pennies on the dollar by this debt buyer and buffalo named aaron siegel. what happens is this debt gets
stolen. somehow aaron finds out from his collector they started calling and saying air and something weird is going on with these accounts. it appears that somebody else has access to this information and its corrupting -- collecting the money from the debtors on the package before we get to them. so at that point he calls his fixer who is a guy named brandon wilson who is an unofficial partner who is a former bank robber who has got into this business help him buy and sell data but also helps them solve problems. he goes and tracks down the fees that it got -- it got data and feeds that have gotten ahold of the dead and retrieve it and we can talk about the crazy showdown with guns and how they get it back but the world in which he must go to retrieve that data is the world that jimmy and habits which is this gray area of legality and underworld of buying and selling
debt in the sketchy manner that exists in to buffalo in other places. >> host: this underworld that you mentioned former thugs to a large extent at the bottom level getting some of this paper that has perhaps been sold and resold and you talk about how the paper has been stolen as well and then you have the level through aaron siegel. he seems like an interesting character to me. also he was not a bug. he grew up on the good side of buffalo. he had a wealthy family upbringing and lived in a mansion. how did he come into the same business? >> guest: the story and the way that i tell the story in the book starts with aaron siegel. aaron grew up in a wealthy and well-known and well-respected family in buffalo. he goes to wall street for a while as a banker and he even
does -- he wants to come home and the closer's family and ends up working for an office in bank of america and buffalo. about the time he comes back was happening is throughout buffalo entrepreneurs are buying some debt and buying the spreadsheets and opening up a shop where they hire a bunch of collectors. the profit margin, this is right before the great recession happened. his profit margin initially for his business went through the roof. he is buying portfolios of debt for 30 grand and in three months making 90-gram. so he realizes he has found this amazing little niche of the finance world. his supply, the key to much of his success as he has the supplier supplying him with this paper at a great price that is really lucrative. the weird thing about the supplier is he is a former armed robber who spent 10 years in prison but has reinvented himself as a debt broker who has
this genius for finding paper that is collectible and isn't that expensive to buy. even though aaron comes from this very more rarified world and has the thinking past he understands that in this sector of the economy it's not unusual to have some kind of shadier connections for some of the guys who are rough around the edges. he and brandon form this unlikely partnership and that's the starting point for the book in the story. >> host: you talk about how when they are looking for this paper looking for brandon he buys a portfolio from his old -- bank of america that is not so great of a portfolio other than the reasons it's been stolen and moved around the block several times. guess of areas, the key to making a profit margin in this world is getting good paper. everyone is hunting for good paper. when he buys from his former
employer bank of america you would think this would be a respectable and as dependable as they can be. he feels bank of america pulled a fast one on him. he spends all this money millions of dollars buying this piece of debt from bank of america and it turns out it's almost all senior citizens which has the smallest amount of disposal -- disposable income. the bank of america failed him but branded and that does business with comments through for him that in a way his former employer doesn't. he's looking behind the eight ball when he buys this bank of america paper in the senior citizens. he feels he can't turn a profit because he has invested all this money. he goes back to brandon and brandon's specialty is finding what he calls. brandon's definition is old debt that everyone thinks is worthless because it's been around the block a few times and
has been bought and sold at its 10 to 15 years old but it still pays because maybe he was sitting in a call center in brazil for five years and no one was working it or maybe it comes from a debt buyer that's about to go under and needs to sell it off cheaply. brandon would find these little deals on this paper so after aaron buys the stuff from bank of america that puts him on a ball he turns to brandon and says you've got to come through for me and help me find deals on this other stuff that you find. the package which we talked about before but which is this debt they get stolen, the package is a fantastic paper for aaron. it doesn't -- he doesn't pay a lot for it. it's paying off for him and then of course you get stolen and he's like all right brandon go fix this. >> host: how did aaron, put the money to buy the package? he had a banking job and he went back to buffalo. who's behind funding the initial purchases of some of these packages? >> guest: aaron story is he's
a banker and comes back to buffalo sets up his own small collection agency and with brandon's help is getting this paper is paying huge dividends. so like any good financier he starts thinking wow if i did this on a larger scale so he makes a few phonecalls and finds aid investors to give him $14 million to do a trial run. the thinking is if he can do with this $40 million what million dollars with houston with his own money money, his printer% return and whatnot than evil do with bigger with the 14 million a second round with 40 million bigger and bigger. the problem is there are several problems one of which is the great recession occurs and then he encounters problems along the way including that i chronicled in the book. >> host: will basically well that happening is in the hole. he is out some amount the
$14 million he has investors on the other side screaming that they want their money. you visited a couple of these investors. what was their stake in this and how much were they pressuring him and was that a portion of their own money? how much did they care about what happened really? >> guest: it's funny because i did want to meet aaron's investors and get a sense for what their take on this was. i went to dinner one night with one of them. first thing you have to understand is there's a strange sequence of events. the debtors are owing brandon who is collecting on it. brandon is getting the money he owns -- owes aaron and aaron owes the investors so everyone is beholden to one another. everyone is connected by the same debt. when aaron goes to meet one of these investors he's totally anxious because he feels he is going to fail this guy and owe them money. turns out joseph sees this almost as -- he is also put
money into tanning salons in barzan for him aaron said he was hoping he would pay off and when we are having dinner with joseph i said do you ever think about basically the peoples who debt you are buying? he says no, why should i? they made bad financial choices. isn't my fault for wanting to profit on it quits he makes the analogy of a baseball game. if a pitcher patch -- pitches a bad pitch in the batter knocks a triple as the batter wrong for taking advantage of the bad pitch and that was just as feeling about the whole situation. but it was kind of crazy to think that i met some of the debtors and a the poor single woman living in st. louis and a former armed robber connected to
this wealthy investor and all of their lives are connected by this chain of debt that none of them know one another. that whole aspect fascinated me. >> host: the way you write about it is so clear. it's like we are there in your writing. you are an excellent writer and an on the ground journalist as well and that helps to bring alive the the characters and locations in which you are meeting these people. you have gone around to meet the top of the chain from joseph to the bottom of the chain the individuals that really get hurt. yet you talk about some specific individuals that are just numbers in this package which is representative of numbers. you mentioned a woman named theresa in atlanta who at one point was paying it and things happen and make got involved in this. >> guest: you are absolutely
right. what is being bought and sold here you can think of it almost as some sort of fake commodity like coffee shares. you're just looking at the string of numbers on the sheets and there are thousands of them and this one paid in this one didn't pay. you think this package of several thousand lines on an excel spreadsheet or basically several thousand stories of people's lives who for one reason or another have fallen into financial ruin. i managed to get ahold of the spreadsheet in a package that got stolen and i was looking at it and think to myself these are stories here. these names in these numbers represent something that has happened. so i started kind of reaching out to some of these people and explaining i'm a journalist and looking into this particular piece of debt that i think was stolen and i want your story. most people just hung up on me but a few who i profile in the booktalk and what they said theresa's the woman you mention. she was a former marine.