The most serious of Spain's torments is its economy. But, unlike Greece, which is basically an underdeveloped country but with high pretensions to being of the heart of Europe, Spain is at the historical and financial core of the continent.
What binds the two countries is the artifice that they are both socialist. It is quite different to run a relatively advanced socialist industrial society like Spain's than a country like Greece where governing runs from grandfather to son to grandson, George Papandreou to Andreas Papandreou to another George. Greece is rather backward, in contrast to its enemy, Turkey, which is advanced economically, and the only Muslim state that is. Yes, the only Muslim state that is. But, I suppose to compete, the second George promises "a new Odyssey." Get it? And what's his other slogan? "Together, we can." Do you get this one, too?
Anyway, this isn't about Greece. This is about Spain.
Just some essentials:
1. 20% unemployment. This is, of course, understated. It leaves out all the illegal immigrants on whom there are no reliable numbers.
2. Government spending to overcome the sloth in the economy is 11.4% of the G.D.P., a frightening number.
3. Total government debt is 270% of G.D.P., and even more frightening number.
4. 1.6 million unsold housing properties.
Of course, it still struts on the world stage as a putative big power. Along with Greece. Of course, and not just as a parenthetical, Madrid and Athens are always outraged when Israel defends itself against its enemies. Oh, well.
None of this moral pretension kept the Spanish Senate, according to the International Herald Tribune, from passing a law "to ban Muslim women from wearing in public the burqa or other garments that cover the whole body."
You might be interested in the fact that out of 40 million inhabitants of Spain, there are maybe two million Muslims, somewhat more counting the illegals. Muslim immigration was streamlined or propped up or facilitated or what-have-you by the socialist government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Was this good for Spain?
And, by the way, the lower house of Belgium (which itself is certainly not a nation and is a near-fiction as a state) approved a measure that, if unamended by the upper house, would make it a crime to wear in public "clothing that hides the face."
The I.H.T. notes that France, with the enthusiastic backing of President Sarkozy, "has also been inching toward such a ban on the burqa."
A post-script: a referendum in Switzerland last year forbade the building of any more minarets in the country. There are now four.