No. 259: "Even Educated Fleas Do It"

No. 259: "Even Educated Fleas Do It"

No. 259: "Even Educated Fleas Do It"

Testing your knowledge of what happened this week
June 16 1999 3:00 AM

No. 259: "Even Educated Fleas Do It"

Millions of retirees and middle-aged women do it, and officials say that's fine, as long as they do it for "health purposes" and not to "promote superstition, spread rumors, engage in sedition, destroy social order or hold mass assemblies." Do what?


Send your answer by noon ET Wednesday to

Monday's Question (No. 258)--"Swiss Dis":

Fill in the blank as Christian Levrat assesses Sunday's referendum on asylum-seekers: "There is a side to Switzerland that is very generous, giving millions to refugees, and a stricter side that wants to make sure that people coming in are not ____________."

"Er, litigious."--Jennifer Miller


"Under 17, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian."--Paul Tullis

"Planning to stay past the weekend."--Katha Pollitt (Matthew Singer, Herb Terns, Dan Simon, and Ethan Underwood had similar answers.)

"Fugitive rape suspects whose parents are bankrolling their ski trips. That was embarrassing last time."--Matt Sullivan

"Going to upset our delicate multicultural balance."--Matthew Singer


Click for more answers.

Randy's Wrap-Up

Three things we know about the Swiss.

First, they're boring, in a cheese and chocolate way that makes the country a lovely place to massage your money. Everyone (especially Brent Curtis) knows what Harry Lime says in The Third Man: "In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love--they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."


Second, they're a refuge, said Tom Stoppard, in Travesties--Zurich, World War I, home to Lenin, Joyce, and Tzara: "Oh, Switzerland!--unfurled like a white flag, pacific civilian Switzerland--the miraculous neutrality of it, the non-combatant impartiality of it, the non-aggression pacts of it, the international red cross of it--entente to the left, détente to the right, into the valley of the invalided blundered and wandered myself when young--Carr of the Consulate!"

Of course Carr was quite dotty, and neutral does not mean pacific, as John McPhee makes clear in La Place de la Concorde Suisse, his book on the Swiss army, our third bit of alpine lore: Their armed neutrality includes universal military training. Every family has a gun, and none of your sissy American pistols; these are assault rifles. The Israeli defense forces are based on the Swiss model, the hedgehog, designed to extract a high price from any invader--artillery presighted on every important bridge, shelter space for every citizen and cow, cool Saab fighter planes whose pilots train to take off from highways.

Four things--those red-handled multi-blade ... five ... five things--the Swatch. And the sixth thing we know--the Alps. Numbered bank accounts would be seven.

Neutral Answer


The Swiss want to make sure people coming in are not abusing the law.

More than 70 percent of Swiss voters approved tougher rules restricting asylum-seekers and rejected a proposal for maternity leave, presumably concerned that some incoming baby might abuse the law.

The new law limits refugees' rights to appeal individual persecution, and it speeds up the process of ejecting those without identity papers.

Although Swiss law requires new mothers to take an eight-week leave, the Swiss have rejected financial assistance for mothers four times since the maternity leave law was enacted in 1945.

Levrat works for an organization called Aid to Refugees.

Gina Duclayan's Dissent

I beg to differ, Randy! One of the favorite movies of my youth, a Tony Randall and Richard Dreyfus vehicle called Sub a Dub Dub, a k a Hello Down There, features the amusing antics of a researcher and his family and friends in their undersea lab-home. Or perhaps you consider this movie to be evidence for your statement, not against it? Pshaw!

Matthew Singer's Savvy Traveler

You will recall that John Calvin, the granddaddy of fundamentalist Protestant preachers, founded his theocracy in Geneva, Switzerland. This has left more of a mark than you might expect. A North American friend of mine was driving from Lyon to Geneva. A few miles after he crossed the border, his little boy asked, "Dad, what happened to all of the billboards with naked ladies on them?" It was an acute observation: The prudish Swiss countryside did indeed lack for any of the casual skin that covers France.

Misplaced Modifiers Extra

Which of these adjectives appear in a New York Times piece describing George W. Bush at his first New Hampshire campaign appearance, and which are from the World Book Encyclopedia (1960) article on the beaver?

  • hard-working
  • useful
  • personable
  • adorable
  • charismatic
  • interesting
  • vague
  • intelligent
  • fuzzy
  • thickset


Bush: personable, adorable, charismatic, vague, fuzzy.

Beaver: hard-working, useful, interesting, intelligent, thickset.

The choice is yours. See you at the polls in November.

Common Denominator