Shaking The Pagoda Tree
A common idiom in 18th and 19th century England was ‘shaking the pagoda tree’. This meant making easy, quick money. And the place it happened was India – and the Indies (Malaysia, Indonesia, etc.).
For the next 100 years, there was significant private loot. Apart from the institutionalized loot by the British administration of their Indian territories. Indian opium was an important product for the British Raj and started from Buxar, and continued till about 20 years before India’s independence.
British governors, Robert Clive and Warren Hastings faced lengthy Parliamentary inquiries about corruption. Same was the story in Dutch colonies.
And corruption is rife in Imperial America today also.
Shakedown in modern times
Most recently, during the Iraq and Afghan Wars, the US Department of Defense has not able to properly account for (to the satisfaction of US Govt. auditors) a sum of (still being estimated) of US$2.3 trillion, says Donald Rumsfeld – to US$10 trillion, an estimate by Stephen Glain author of State vs. Defense: The Battle to Define America’s Empire.
In fiscal 1999, a defense audit found that about $2.3 trillion of balances, transactions and adjustments were inadequately documented. These “unsupported” transactions do not mean the department ultimately cannot account for them, she advised, but that tracking down needed documents would take a long time. Auditors, she said, might have to go to different computer systems, to different locations or access different databases to get information. (via Reforming Financial Management System Can Save Big | By Jim Garamone | American Forces Press Service).
For the accounting entries, $2.3 trillion was not supported by adequate audit trails or sufficient evidence to determine their validity, $2 trillion was not reviewed because of time constraints, and $2.6 trillion were supported. via DoD Audit Report No. D-2000-091 February 25, 2000 (Project No. 0FI-2115.01).
taking a look at the Department of Education, which, for the last three years hasn’t been able to get a clean audit. Then I understand that the Department of Defense shares many of the same problems that we have with the Department of Education. I think the IG just notes that in one of the audits that you went through of the 1999 financial statements included adjustments of $7.6 trillion — that’s trillion — in account adjustments, of which 2.3 trillion were supported by un — by reliable documents — were unsupported by reliable documentation. (REP. PETER HOEKSTRA (R-MI) – Testimony before the House Budget Committee on the FY 2002 Defense Budget As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Comptroller Dov Zakheim, Cannon House Office Building, Wednesday, July 11, 2001.?
Pentagon contracting has been broken for decades. Former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld said — on September 10, 2001 — that “according to some estimates, we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.” The next day was 9/11, and counting Pentagon dollars was no longer a top priority. (via The Pentagon’s Marauding Fraudsters|Time).
“We know it’s gone. But we don’t know what they spent it on,” said Jim Minnery, Defense Finance and Accounting Service. (via The War On Waste).
DoD financial experts, Zakheim said, are making good progress reconciling the department’s “lost” expenditures, trimming them from a prior estimated total of $2.3 trillion to $700 billion. And, he added, the amount continues to drop. (via Zakheim Seeks To Corral, Reconcile ‘Lost’ Spending).
Back in time
A Portuguese word of uncertain origin, Pagoda probably a corruption of bhagvata. Another dictionary suggests (less probable, in my view) it is derived from from dāgaba, meaning ‘relic-container’, something that contained relics from Gautama Buddha’s body.
For sometime, till late 18th century, apart from describing a temple, the word was also used to denote a golden coin. The champa flower tree was also called Temple tree, or Frangipani.
Making money was as easy as collecting champa flowers – which drop off very easily. Knowing the riches of Indian temples, like shaking a pagoda tree was the easiest way to get flowers, a shake-down of Indians was the easiest way to make money for Englishmen.
India, the richest economy of the world at that time, with Mughal treasury, the largest in the world, and English character that David Hume described so well, was a mix of circumstances never repeated before in history.
- Panetta: Cutting too deep would devastate military (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Panetta faces lawmakers on defense cuts (sfgate.com)