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Ohio Rep. Launches Polka Web Site

January 10, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ One of Congress’ last Internet holdouts finally rolled out a Web page, and it’s a barrel of fun.

In the cyberspace of Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, bowling, polka and kielbasa links all have a place, along with serious policy papers on the issues he cares about most.

In addition to routine information _ like where to find his district office, how to get a flag that’s flown over the Capitol _ Kucinich stocked his computer storefront (www.house.gov/kucinich) with the basics of life in the Cleveland neighborhoods he represents: bowling, polka music and kielbasa, a Polish sausage.

``Only on our Web site will Americans be able to find the answer to the age-old question, `Who stole the kiska,‴ the congressman said.

Kiska is a kind of blood sausage. It’s popular among Russian-Americans, and a variation spelled kiszka is popular among Polish-Americans. Some people who would never eat the stuff have heard about it in a song about a butcher-shop theft.

Frank Yankovic’s version of ``Who Stole the Kiska″ is one of more than a dozen polka snippets being posted on the Kucinich Web site.

The ``Beer Barrel Polka″ is there, too.

So is ``If You Can’t Do the Polka, Don’t Marry my Daughter,″ and as a bonus, an excerpt from the polka-rock band ``Brave Combo,″ whose Grammy-nominated compact disc offers a version of ``Purple Haze″ called ``The Jimi Hendrix Polka.″

Kucinich won’t be the first member of Congress to put sound on his Web site, or the first to include non-government information.

The Web site for a group of moderate to conservative Democratic congressmen who call themselves the Blue Dog Coalition have barking dogs, in stereo, at www.house.gov/john/bluedog. Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., has patriotic music on his site, www.house.gov/barr.

The office of Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, reports that the portion of its Web site that get the most visits offers instructions for knitting ``toasty toes″ _ hand-made slippers created by volunteers around the country and then sent to American ships at sea.

Jason Poblete, press secretary to House Administration Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., said the lawmakers’ Web sites have been getting more numerous and more elaborate as time goes on and more Web tools and electronic storage space become available.

``They keep asking us for more tools and more technology,″ he said.

Almost all members of Congress now have Web pages, ranging from simple electronic brochures to elaborate sites updated with each day’s news release or floor speech. Kucinich was the last from the Ohio delegation to launch one.

His site allows a one-click connection to The Sausage Shoppe (sausageshoppe.com), which doesn’t sell its product over the Internet but whose kielbasa was selected ``best of city″ by Cleveland Magazine, whose readers presumably know their kielbasa. That’s where the kielbasa recipes can be found.

The page on Kucinich’s site that features pictures of polka album covers and snippets of polka favorites also has a local flavor, with the music all coming from Cleveland International Records.

The company’s president, Steve Popovich, said he’ll consult with lawyers to determine whether to let the congressman post entire songs instead of 10- or 20-second samples.

Artists generally are hesitant to put an entire song on the Internet, where a would-be customer can download it for free instead of buying it on compact disc.

``Believe me, in the polka world we need all the help we can get,″ said Popovich. ``Please steal our music.

``If a million people download `The Jimi Hendrix Polka’ it would expose them to a sound that they’ll like and want to buy the record.″

Kucinich, who has championed the cause of doo-wop and early rock ‘n’ roll musicians who want to stop replacement acts from using their bands’ names, doesn’t offer any other types of music on his Web site, but he suggested that could change. ``Polka is our local music, but stay tuned, there’s more to come,″ he said.

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