The party’s over

D for duplicitous: If you ask Bites, Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, had it coming. Matsui claims she opposes the war in Iraq, but refuses to publicly commit to cutting off additional funding for the “Mess O’ Potamia,” as the Daily Show puts it. So for the past several weeks, members of the Sacramento Coalition to End the War have camped out in Matsui’s local office at the Federal Courthouse in an attempt to force the congresswoman to reconcile her opposing positions, one way or the other.

Back in the day when Caucasians were murdering our country’s original inhabitants and stealing their land, Native Americans had a saying for the kind of double-talk Matsui and her Democratic Party cohorts practice: “White man speak with forked tongue,” they’d say, at least in Hollywood Westerns. Of course, Matsui is neither white nor a man. Bites hates to admit it, but this is progress.

California’s Democratic congressional delegation is riddled with such progress, from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. Pelosi and Boxer share Matsui’s nuanced stance on the war and our funding of it. Feinstein presents her own special case, as the patient reader soon will discover. At any rate, it’s clear men alone no longer dominate the ranks of political prevarication. It’s equal opportunity, all around. You’ve come a long way, baby.

Paying the bills: So, how much is Operation Iraqi Genocide, err, Iraqi Freedom, costing we the people? That depends on how you cut the pie. According to Foreign Policy in Focus, at, we’ve spent $379 billion since the conflict began in 2003. That’s a $1,264 tab for every citizen in the United States. California’s share of the war bill is $42.2 billion. FPIF estimates the long-term cost will be $1.4 trillion.

That’s a lot of scratch, and more than a little of it will go straight into the pocket of billionaire financier Richard Blum, majority stockholder in the Perini Corporation, the largest casino and hotel builder in the United States. Blum, along with CEO Ronald Tutor, controls the company, which, à la Haliburton, has been awarded lucrative contracts from the Army Corps of Engineers to provide construction services in Iraq and Afghanistan, worth up to $500 million apiece.

Blum, in case you didn’t know it, is also Feinstein’s husband. For years, journalists have questioned the relationship between Feinstein’s political activities and her husband’s fortune, but so far no one has nailed the senator for impropriety. Freelance investigative reporter Peter Byrne, writing in this week’s issue of Metro Silicon Valley, floats these charges. Check it out at

Unforgiven: Money is an abstraction. The real cost of war is borne in blood. Estimates of the number of Iraqis killed so far in Gulf War II range from 43,937 to 655,000. More than 3,000 American soldiers have been killed, including 278 Californians, more than any other state. One of the first Californians killed was Casey Sheehan, a casualty that President George W. Bush may yet come to regret.

Casey’s mom, Cindy Sheehan, has become the thorn in the side of the U.S. war machine. On Monday, the world’s most recognized peace activist dropped in on Matsui’s Sacramento office in a show of solidarity with local peace activists, who were hopeful that Sheehan’s high profile might yet sway the representative to their side.

Bites caught Sheehan in action last weekend at a fireside chat at the home of local anti-war activists Stephen and Virginia Pearcy. Sheehan’s message was simple and directed squarely at Democrats: Get out of Iraq now and try the Bush administration for treason and war crimes. She’s not holding her breath waiting for it to happen. If Bush escapes impeachment, she vowed to haunt him the rest of his life.

“I’ll stick to him like stink on shit,” she said.