Tuesday, February 25, 2014

US Department of Justice: Back On Line?

Lazarus Quivers
Can we move Attorney General Holder's gurney from the ICU now?

For years the Republicans at both state and federal levels have enjoyed what amounts to a "do not touch" invulnerability from the US Department of Justice.  MeanMesa has watched in horror as state after state, at least those suffering under the suffocating, regressive death grip of entirely "red" state governments, have passed horrid little local laws which brazenly "flew directly into the face" of Supreme Court precedents, Constitutionality decisions, societal norms, division of church and state and even common decency.

The direly fractured Republicans have been running wild.  The attacks resemble firing in panic into a brush line obscuring any real targets.  Adding to the destructive chaos, when considered individually, these repressive targets are being selected incoherently, that is, in a manner quite disassociated from any form of comprehensible, cohesive "master plan."

That may be a good thing, but probably not.  "Hail Mary's" when inflicted on a national scale, tend to be rather destructive.

It seems that any strategy leading to the destruction of any organized collection of established law has slipped away completely, leaving only desperate, sporadic, manic attacks directed only by the whims of the tragically flimsy, aberrant psychology of the GOP's base voter base.

Anxious to refute any casual claim that such a provocative statement is merely geriatric ranting and raving, it's probably a good spot for a "factual overview."  We can look at developments in the oligarchs' party at both the federal and the state level to get a clear idea of what has become an emboldened disregard for settled law across the country.

We can also review the suddenly "re-invigorated" Department of Justice responses to the continuing "supra-legal" gambits of these unconvincingly brave scofflaws with such a penchant for ignoring laws.

Yes, We Still Have a US Department of Justice

The Holder Justice Department has been essentially invisible for the first six years of the Obama Administration.

Eric Holder Awakes Like Rosetta space probe During this time we have watched -- helplessly -- as rogue tea baggers have literally eviscerated a grisly mass of the most cherished American legal traditions from the hands of citizens.  One incremental "victory" after another for the owners of the Republican Party has left those of us expecting relief from the federal judicial in a dreary malaise.

The same "string of victories" has, predictably, produced roughly the effect of an overloaded syringe full of heroin and methyl amphetamine on the already unstable, beer guzzling GOP hill billies and bigots as they dance like grotesque, semi-conscious puppets for their oligarch masters.

The 2014 GOP: No Lip Stick

The child molester travelling with the Texas GOP candidate for governor called the President a "sub-human mongrel."

Limbaugh, the morbidly obese, drug addled voice of the Republican Party, burped forth a "man boy" claim that the First Lady had a "fat ass."

The toothless GOP war mongers -- led by the "suspiciously romantic man-boy pair" of McCain and Graham have never relented with their fear soaked demands for another reckless war.

The House of Representatives, after exhausting every other excuse for ignoring their public constituency [of course their REAL constituency inhabits the dark rooms where the lobbyists hand out checks...], published the "last gasp" incendiary bombs to explain their derisive neglect of popular issues like immigration reform by simply stating that they "couldn't trust the President."

They perfected this technique while they were ignoring the 80% public opinion in favor of back ground checks.

It would be a confusing mistake to seek out only direct DOJ engagement for some of these examples.  After all, since the US DOJ is hardly a "transparent" part of the government which openly broadcasts its intentions and strategies to deal with such outrages, we may rest quite comfortably with the assumption that even when judicial action seems far removed from Washington, it's not actually all that distant.  Even when the action originates from courts at other levels, it's still very likely that it's been "touched by the hand" of the Attorney General or the DOJ.

MeanMesa largely adheres to the unspoken notion that DOJ has been "placed in sleep mode" very intentionally by a President overly eager not to incite a civil war.  Obama knew in 2008 that the Congressional and red state bigots were already far too close to being the equivalent to "cases of wet dynamite in the trunk of an abandoned Pinto" to "tolerate" very much Presidential independence directed by a black man, but this has now evaporated along with even the existentially remote prospect of the oligarchs ever allowing anything they didn't like.

Had the President unveiled his reluctant engagement of "executive authority" without previously exhausting the American voter's last flicker of hope for a functional government, the GOP's racists would have lurched violently into their favorite anti-democracy  jingoism of "states rights," voter fraud, gun control, FEMA camps and the rest.  Now, however, the apparently endless oligarch imposed austerity has become a "detail-free" agony, devoid of explanation, success, justification or excuse.

Trouble in "Oligarch-ville"

THIS is the Republican Party in 2014.  Let's have a look at some specific examples.  What signs can we see that the DOJ has "come back to life" like our distant cometary probe?

Governor Christie's Witch Dunking

Yes, New Jersey Democrats have decided to "completely reveal" every cob web running from the labyrinthine Governor's office to the George Washington bridge shut down, but along the way the same spiders have collected half a dozen extremely crooked real estate development deals, hundreds of millions of suspiciously "re-allocated" hurricane Sandy funds, multi-million dollar parking lots with $1 per year annual lease contracts and more.

Is Eric Holder's Justice Department driven by a political agenda, or are the department's recent prosecutorial decisions simply signs of overzealousness? 

The Justice Department has focused on two prominent Republicans, announcing a corruption indictment of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and launching an active and very public criminal investigation into the antics of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's administration. In doing so, federal prosecutors have created at least the appearance that they are targeting two men who have been touted as plausible candidates for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.

All this could have been comfortably dispatched as merely "state politics," but brazenly purloined federal money continued to show up at every street corner.  So, the patient silhouette of the DOJ quietly appeared in the shadows behind the state legislature subpoenas.

By necessity, it's to be a light touch.  The oligarchs' obedient media is salivating in anticipation with the prospect of painting a picture of federal prosecutors amputating the arms and legs of the GOP's 2016 Presidential "golden boy."

Governor Walker's Late Term Exhumation

Wisconsin failed to recall this Koch employee, but now, not even the "brothers' money" seems deep enough to resuscitate the heavily soiled corpse of Scott Walker.  The Governor's general staff is now riddled with the embarrassing vacancies left by staffers doing time as inmates for violating election campaign laws.

What's buried here? [source]
What had been a deliriously delicious tea bag festival of burping and bellowing hill billies only a year ago has become a doggedly unappeasable, painful daily expose' of "miscreants acting badly."  This might "look" like the wheels and gears of Wisconsin justice slowly grinding the grist of local law, but we can see the silent hand of federal justice in the back ground.

Finesse is everything.  The billionaires' "emergency Plan B" 2016 Presidential  candidate had been made basically invulnerable to political assault under the protection of the Koch's millions, but the growing scandal is probably cutting this awful potential candidate off at the knees.

The Wheels Fall Off the GOP's Rape, Abortion, Birth Control Truck

We know that Satanic women's health issues are the GOP's favorite things when it comes to juicing up the overly biblical American Legion crowd, and we have watched literally hundreds of red state legislative bills gurgling to the surface of the "red state cess pool" since 2008.  Every farmer suddenly injected into his state legislature by ALEC sponsorship seems to have donned his bow tie, hitched up his belly and dutifully lurched into "attack the gals mode."

At first, even though all this state level nonsense seemed to fly in the face of Roe, the federal DOJ appeared paralysed -- unwilling and unprepared to respond in the defense of settled law.  Now, however, these regressive state anti-women laws have met a crippling series of lower court reversals.  The damage may have been done as women's health clinics were decimated in the swamps of the paleolithic South and the wildly religionist fly-over states, but -- thanks largely to the discrete intervention of the DOJ -- the nation-wide trend is clear and stable.

Supreme Court precedents apply to everyone -- regardless of what the preacher and the coach might belch out at the local revival tent hootenanny.  It is the responsibility of the US DOJ to "make this happen."  When the GOP adopts a political platform founded on ignoring established law, the dreams might be intoxicating, but the reality is far less delectable.

In this perhaps overly broad example, the GOP's little talking monkeys have dug themselves a "bottomless pit" with American women voters who don't seriously believe that they still live in the brutally patriarchal old testament.  These voting females don't like rape; they use birth control; and, they are horrified when sold out Congressmen start reaching for their private parts with half-baked state "uterus control" laws. All across the bright red ALEC states MeanMesa suspects that the DOJ is eagerly awaiting the first wounded plaintiff with standing.

It's No Longer "Open Season" on Mother Earth

A glacier of corporate "profit" has steadily flowed into billionaire pockets from all the money "saved" by sabotaging environmental laws.  The oligarchs have been transporting shale crude on obsolete rail road tracks -- and pocketing the savings as "profit."  They have been ignoring inspection regulations for fertilizer plants and above ground chemical storage tanks -- and pocketing the savings as "profit."  The "energy" companies -- spelled "c-o-a-l" -- have "saved" the maintenance money on their obscene slurry ponds -- and pocketing the savings as "profit."

Further, these are not exclusively environmental crimes.  The evil thread runs like poisoned drinking water directly through various crimson tinged, flaming magenta, tea bag governors' offices to the tatters of state environmental agencies where even the contents of waste baskets have been bought and sold to "the regulated."

DOJ seems to have finally located an interest in these cases, too.

[Read more:
Federal Criminal Investigation of NC Govt Duke Energy for Dan River Coal Ash Spill
West Virginia chemical spill exposes new water risk ]

Minority Government May Not Be Permanent

Yes, the sold out Supreme Court majority obediently pretended to be "long suffering, deeply wounded" Libertarian victims when they were commanded to pass Citizens United.  But it didn't end there.  During the Bush W. autocracy Republican nobodies such as Karl Rove and others publicly announced their ambition to make the GOP a permanent fixture controlling Washington.

The same anti-democracy strategy then mortally wounded the Voting Rights Act, but now the DOJ, like Ruth gleaning in the ancient fields of Boaz, has scrupulously collected the remnants of that old Voting Rights Act and actively prosecuted a promising collection of red state voter suppression schemes.

The full task will include other things besides obliterating racist and jingoistic voter suppression laws [notably, rapacious gerrymandering...], but DOJ has made a start.  The day may come when the US Congress is, once again, actually elected by a majority of voters.

[Read more:
Justice Depatment looks at NC voter id law
MeanMesa: American Democracy: Terms of Surrender
Pennsylvania voter id law struck down ]

Nestled in with the china and old boots in MeanMesa's attic hope chest, there are plenty additional targets for the DOJ.

It would seem reasonable for federal law enforcement interests to begin work on the now codified, Old Testament style, mandatory discrimination laws against gays and minorities being passed by the biblical red state governments. 

It's also probably time that the FBI "revisit" its internal investigation findings that every single one of the 150 shootings since 1993 that have been "reviewed" were totally "justified."  This is going to be the case with the slaughter of the Tsarnaev acquaintance during his interview in Florida, the deportation of all witnesses and the blanket sequestration of both the internal report and the autopsy findings concerning the body.

MeanMesa would be heartened by an energetic probe into the existing mountain of truly skanky, paid off Pentagon procurement.

There's always the possibility that Congressional "profits" from insider trading scams might benefit from a little "sun light."

Nonetheless, what we see today is a promising beginning.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ukraine's Perilous Path Between Merkel and Putin

A Geo-Political Scylla and Charybdis
Everyone has a cheery smile, far-away eyes and a check book.

MeanMesa: Ukarines Perilous Path between Mrkel and Putin
Rough Water: the EU and the RF's Customs Union [image]
With opportunities the Argo's Jason might have envied, Ukraine still faces a seemingly exclusive choice between two aggressively competitive courses -- and allies.  Interestingly,  in this awkward mix the Ukraine's attraction to neither enjoys much advantage from either closer geographical proximity or greater cultural similtudes.

Yet, there is history.

However, at this point the compelling attraction derived from that history depends on "how historical" the scope of its consideration will be.  Looking back through the annals of the place, there was, after all, a time when Ukraine was "more Russian" than even Russia is today.  Glimpsing at another second in the long story, Ukraine had to battle for its autonomous life amid the rapacious, colonial kingdoms in Balkan Europe when that place was inhabited by players such as the Hapsburgs, Poland and others.

When the various "pieces" of modern Ukraine were assembled 95 years ago, the Soviets had been violently in and out of Kiev and the Germans' post war capacity to "keep promises for assistance" were vaporizing in the ruins of the European economy.  In the ensuing century, those "pieces" were tediously and painfully consolidated by the typical factors -- ambition, greed, exhaustion, Xenophobic Soviet geopolitical colonialism and, perhaps most irritating among them all, inertia, isolation and neglect.

All of this history manifests itself in the present moment for Ukraine, but the action in the streets of Kiev today has far more to do with determining the future than with reconciling the chaotic past.

Ukraine Journey to Colchis - East or West - EU or Customs Union
For ancient Jason and his Argonauts, the obsession was the distant city of Colchis where he hoped to find -- and probably steal -- the "Golden Fleece."  The tale became famous thanks to the almost relentless string of supernatural hardships placed as obstacles for his journey -- all emotion drenched vagaries imposed at the whimsy of the deific residents of Olympus.

Almost ironically, the location ancient kingdom of Colchis happens to be only a
[Map source}
couple of day's voyage across the Black Sea from Yalta. Jason was not fortunate enough to have disembarked from a port in near-by Crimea and, consequently, kept having supernatural "tentacle problems" all along the way.

Too much mythology?  Here's a recap and some links.

MeanMesa: Ukraine's Perilous Path Between Merkel and Putin
Jason's ARGO [painting source]
In some versions of the story, the sirens or sea monsters, Scylla and Charybdis, represented an alternate route which could be chosen by a captain wishing to avoid "The Clashing Rocks."

"While Scylla was bathing in the sea, the jealous Circe poured a potion into the sea water which caused Scylla to transform into a monster with four eyes, six long necks equipped with grisly heads, each of which contained three rows of sharp teeth. Her body consisted of twelve tentacle-like legs and a cat's tail while four to six dog-heads ringed her waist. In this form she attacked the ships of passing sailors, seizing one of the crew with each of her heads." [Read more.]

"The sea monster Charybdis lives under a small rock on one side of a narrow channel.Three times a day, Charybdis swallows a huge amount of water, before belching it back out again, creating large whirlpools capable of dragging a ship underwater." [Read more.]

All this mythology sets the stage for the point of this post.  Ukraine is currently "making its own journey," and its route seems chillingly similar to the tale of Jason and the Argonauts.  Standing firmly on this overly poetic, flimsy platform, perhaps MeanMesa can modernize Ukraine's epic course by suggesting clear eyes and a strong hand on the rudder -- even while being hypnotized by the sirens' call which seems to come from both sides.

Putin's Gambit
 For the Ukrainian Chess Match
Creating a "Game of Thrones" from a "Game of Pawns"

We can hardly fool ourselves at this point.  Ukraine faces the avarice of the same rapacious economic forces that are now ever present here in the US, the European Union and the Russian Federation.


As the Russian Federation emerged from the dismal grey of Soviet Communism, there was the predictable "unleashing of long constrained free market" which had been so passionately proselytized by propagandists and other half blind ideological dreamers west of the Warsaw Pact.  In other words, from their dank, shadowy, Soviet hiding places, the Russian oligarchs timidly traced their first uncertain foot steps into the light  By midnight of that first day they had established a saleable sort of an obedient, hybrid democracy which was already in their death grip at the moment of its joyous birth.

These ambitious corporatists did everything possible to gain control of the Russian Federation's new government, making significant headway even after a few "bumps in the road," but events now have left the ultimate oligarch, Vladimir Putin, in the undeniable seat of "decider."  [Those of us here in the US know this position quite well from our own experience with autocrat Bush II.]

Ukraine watched as this new Russian power structure flexed its muscles during a recent, violent, corrective denouement as the "decider," irritated with a billionaire's constant complaining, quietly transformed oil magnate Khodorkovsky from the richest man in Russia to inmate on a "judicial assembly line."

At issue here is the unavoidable fact that the Russian Federation today hosts an entire cloud of surviving "Khodorkovsky's."  They have private lines to the Kremlin, plenty of Rubles and sociopathic ambitions for all sorts of things -- including Ukraine's future.  They are attracted by all reservoirs of potential opportunity no matter who might otherwise be the legitimate inheritor.

This is the way they see Ukraine.  Putin's offer of Russian billions for a devious concoction of "economic development" and "debt relief" was approved by them, the design of that assistance was engineered by them [They not only intend to benefit from Ukraine's resurrected economy but also, they already hold plenty of Ukraine's debt.] and the outcome of Ukraine's acceptance of the plan will inevitably appear on the books of their asset accounts.

This innocent, compassionate "infusion" of cash will not look like Russian Federation colonialism on the day the agreement is finalized, but five years later, it will.

"In statements that seemed aimed at avoiding further antagonism of the thousands of protesters who remain camped on the streets here, officials in Kiev and Moscow emphasized that the possibility of Ukraine joining Russia’s customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan would not be discussed at the meeting. 

At the same time, the increasing likelihood that Russia, not the West, would bolster Ukraine, which is facing a severe economic crisis, was being viewed as a potentially significant turning point in the now more than three-week-old civil uprising here." [Read the NYT article here.]

"Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych proposed Friday the creation of an advisory council with representatives from Ukraine, the European Union, and the Russia-led Customs Union, Itar-Tass reported.

Yanukovych’s comments came on the heels of a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Minsk on Thursday evening. 

'We are mutually troubled regarding trade relations with Ukraine after the creation of a free trade zone with the EU,' Yanukovych said. 'Therefore we have proposed forming a standing advisory body with Ukraine, the EU and the Customs Union.'”  [Read the Moscow Times article here.]
While it might be attractive to imagine Vladimir Putin deep in thought, exploring the subtle mechanisms of Ukraine's successful future, this would be over generous and imprudent. Vlad is currently occupied with fabricating a labyrinthine scheme to neutralize the pro-EU protesters, resuscitate the daily more lack lustre Yanukovich and patiently, quietly and, importantly, "unofficially" add Ukraine's future to the already impressive holdings of The Russian Federation's oligarchs.

The EU's Promise

The European Unions' last few decades of deceptive gentrification has imaged those corresponding to Russia's oligarchs as "bond holders."  Beyond the modified title, and a lack of attraction to Samovars,  the dangerous psychology is almost a precise duplicate.  Perhaps the most notable discrepancy is in the measure of experience.  The European "bond holders" have been "practising their trade" for centuries.

The EU's "pitch" to Ukraine is dismally similar to the destructive "economic assistance" model of the IMF in its own recent expeditions.  While discussions of the general theme of the EU's offer are manifold in current "news" releases," MeanMesa finds this article from The Economist a remarkably frank, fresh, exception amid the horde. Original links remain enabled. [Read the original Economist article here.]




Keep the door open

How Europe nearly lost Ukraine—but may yet regain it

“WE ARE not in a bidding war with Russia” is the refrain of senior Europeans whenever they talk about the turmoil in Ukraine. In fact, they sometimes are. Now events in Kiev, particularly back-handed attempts to suppress its protests by force, have given the European Union an unexpected chance to try again with the offer that went spectacularly wrong two months ago. Indeed, the EU could yet help to pull Ukraine back from civil strife and salvage its battered European ideals. 

November’s Vilnius summit with the EU’s eastern neighbours was meant to be crowned by the signing of an association agreement and all-encompassing trade deal with Ukraine. It would have extended to it most of the EU’s single-market rules. But President Viktor Yanukovych unexpectedly rejected the deal and turned instead to Russia, which had threatened to squeeze out imports and also offered a $15 billion loan and cheaper gas—all in hopes of luring Ukraine into its own Eurasian customs union.

Outraged Ukrainians took over Kiev’s Independence Square (Maidan), rather as in the Orange revolution in 2004 (also directed at Mr Yanukovych). The president’s attempts to deal with the challenge with violence only made things worse. In January Mr Yanukovych pushed through repressive legislation, copied from Russian laws, and tried to clear the streets by force. This led to bigger protests, the death of several demonstrators, concerted pressure (rather more effectively from America than from the EU) and a semi-revolt by oligarchs. Taken aback, Mr Yanukovych sacked his prime minister, offered a conditional amnesty and is now seeking a deal with his foes.

Thanks to this, the EU is back in the game. Its foreign-policy chief, Catherine Ashton, went to Kiev this week to encourage a deal between Mr Yanukovych and the opposition. So did Victoria Nuland, America’s assistant secretary of state for European affairs. The two weeks of the Sochi Olympics hosted by Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, may offer a window for diplomacy to pull Ukraine back from what Leonid Kravchuk, a former president, has called “the brink of civil war”. Thereafter, Mr Yanukovych may feel less restrained from more violent tactics.

The Europeans disagree over what went wrong. To some, Mr Yanukovych played them as fools, using the EU deal to improve Russia’s offer. To others, the EU was wrong to insist on the release of Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister jailed by Mr Yanukovych. A third theory holds that the EU offer lacked a crucial element: the promise of eventual EU membership. A fourth says the very notion of an “eastern partnership” was misconceived. It was born out of the failure in 2008 to put Ukraine and Georgia on the road to NATO membership. Extending the EU’s economic border, as opposed to NATO’s military one, was seen as less provocative. But Russia came to treat it as equally objectionable.

All these debates have now been overtaken by events. The brutishness of Mr Yanukovych and the feistiness of the protesters (despite less savoury radicals in their midst) means the key question is no longer the terms of any deal with the EU but the nature of government in Ukraine. Is Mr Yanukovych a man the EU can do business with? Little matter. Lady Ashton is focusing on a constitutional settlement to reduce the president’s authority, and possibly early elections. Was it a mistake to stake all on the flawed Mrs Tymoshenko? She is now a sideshow. The immediate issue is the proposed amnesty for jailed protesters. Did the EU make the right offer? Irrelevant for now. The association agreement has been set on one side.

Attention is now on a new economic package from the EU and the IMF. This is not necessarily dependent on the association agreement, but rather on a new government undertaking economic reform. “Our offer is easier,” says one European minister. “Our condition is that Ukraine should start fixing its economy. Russia’s condition is that Ukraine should become a vassal.

Europe’s task

None of this offers certainty that Ukraine can resolve its conflict or become a modern European democracy. Russia cares more about losing Ukraine than the EU cares about winning it. Still, the sight of protesters flying the EU’s blue flag with gold stars over the snow-covered barricades with a fervour unseen in the drizzle of Brussels should give Europeans pause for thought. If the cause of Europe has any meaning, it is surely the idea of promoting liberty and democracy, and overcoming divisions, across the continent.

It must ultimately be for Ukrainians to decide where they stand between east and west. But beyond immediate crisis management, the EU can do two things. Right now it should make clear, like the Americans, that it will impose sanctions on those who use force to steal the country’s wealth, and on oligarchs who support a rotten system. Even without Belarus-style visa bans and asset seizures, much can already be done: Schengen countries can blacklist individuals, and money-laundering rules require banks to watch out for suspicious activity in the accounts of “politically exposed persons”. In the medium term, Europe needs fully integrated energy markets and grids, including Ukraine’s, to reduce the scope for Russian blackmail.

In the longer term, Europe can give Ukrainians new hope by keeping the door open to Ukraine’s membership of the EU. True, enlargement is not a popular cause in times of crisis. But Ukraine will not become a candidate in the near future. The EU needs only to reaffirm article 49 of its own treaty: any European state that abides by European values is eligible to join. The “perspective” of membership will not solve everything. But it helps reform-minded countries to undergo wrenching economic and political change. Europe is not omnipotent. But it still offers a potent symbol to its neighbours.

After the EU's finance ministers correctly diagnosed out of control -- and economically ineffective -- government spending among its member states such as Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy, the "ever present" bond holders were attracted to austerity like night flying mosquitoes to a bug zapper.

According to their values, any pain which could enable -- and compel -- these debtor states to maintain their interest payments were on the table.  Unhappily, the brutal, largely German, imposed form of this EU austerity remained in place long enough to mortally wound these "debt ridden economies targeted for assistance" before the first thoughts about a "different path" emerged. [After the continuing collapse of these national economies under austerity measures, we heard the first few words about "maybe considering focusing on growth."]

Let's just say that these patients were removed from the ICU, separated from their IV's and relocated to rolling gurneys in the hall way.

The "different path" idea is an important one, that is, important to Europe, but also especially important to Ukraine.

Strangely, it seems that all oligarchs, bond holders and their ilk remain tragically hypnotized by some of the very worst ideas of the thirty year old "supply side" Reagan-nomics.  This same complaint can be extended generally to the individuals and policies in those countries which, in turn, borrowed and spent all this money which now comprises the debt of these debtor nations.

All the national economies mentioned -- now including the Ukraine -- are not suffering from a "supply side" crisis.  They are suffering from a "demand side" crisis.  Their economies are facing the current dilemma due to a lack of demand.

The EU's idea of assistance for Ukraine is firmly rooted in improving "opportunities" for increased trade.  "Improving opportunities" means enhancing "supply side" possibilities.  Ironically, in The Economist article the Europeans quoted characterized the Russian offer with the term: "vassals."

They should know.
Ukraine's Third Course
Yanukovich is no Jason

Amid the passion of those in the streets of Kiev the temptation to slide into a false dualism can grow overwhelming, but history is littered with tragedies derived from absolutist type "either/or" thinking.  When the future seems to hold forth only two choices, all sorts of alternate opportunities can be too easily dispatched in the process.
This is not to say that Ukrainians have that "third option" at this moment,  but it is to say that everyone there should start thinking about what that kind of an option might be.  Further, that "everyone" means "everyone."

Ukrainians in the streets, the state police confronting them, Ukrainians who supported Yanukovich, religious Ukrainians, modern Ukrainians and even Ukranians who still sentimentally reminisce about the old Soviet times all have a "dog in this fight."  Every Ukrainian will pay a high price for not getting this right, and every Ukrainian will benefit greatly from getting this right.

MeanMesa would be callous indeed to make a shallow, prefunctory division of the players in the present conflict, but for sake of establishing "generalized interests" for a convenient reference let's say that Ukraine is divided along the lines of East and West.  This is important because any long term resolution for the interests manifest in the passion on the streets of Kiev will, of necessity, need to embrace the respective interests of both sides.

The answer required will be a blend of the corresponding advantages and disadvantages offered by both Merkel and Putin.  From what is lurking in the shadowy details of what has already been proposed one can, given sufficient motivation and effort, piece together a Ukrainian solution which might be acceptable to all parties.

Let's look at what might be "on the plate" for a new government of reconciliation -- including a reasonable bit of austerity.  Ukrainian austerity.

The whole country needs investment, but the agreeable part of that prospect pretty much ends right there.  Both "ends" of Ukraine need markets and demand.  Putin's offer includes access to a Russian demand for the products of the industrial East, while Merkel's offer centers on a European demand for products of a mercantile West.

The "rub" comes from EU's implied offer to embrace the West's as-of-yet unrealized production capacity.  The promise is that, once austerity has been imposed, the EU will open its rather deep pockets to provide the capital to develop West Ukraine into this "European style" industrialized economy.

The obvious problem is revealed in example.  "Industrialized economies" within the EU are hardly dangling the bait as attractive, successful role models.  Almost without exception, they are -- today -- still staggering forward with depressed markets, high unemployment and the stubborn investment "cash vacuum" lingering after the last attack on the global economy by the oligarchs, autocrats, bond holders and bankers.

Ukraine really doesn't need to go here.

Whether Ukraine does, in fact, "go there" will depend almost entirely on the government which emerges from the opposing forces we see in the "news."  While MeanMesa would never suggest a policy endorsing isolationism, it would be a good time to direct all development resources to domestic targets and domestic opportunities.

It is not a fact that a successful, future Ukrainian economy must be supported primarily by the export of manufactured production, yet this quiet implication seems permanently embedded in what's being proposed from both the East and the West.

If money is to be borrowed to reinforce the economy, borrow it for infrastructure.  If jobs must be created to reinforce the economy, hire Ukrainians to build infrastructure.  If there must be incentives for industrial development, target those incentives on the manufacture of goods which can be consumed by Ukrainians.

Stifle corruption -- both domestic and foreign.  Place a high priority on establishing a government that is trustworthy.  Sell reconstruction bonds to the domestic population.  Create a Ukrainian stock market and a national bank.  Done well, these can become the bulwarks of economic nationalism.  Economic nationalism, once functioning in a credible manner, will inspire Ukrainians to participate in their government, not a minor accomplishment.  [For anyone questioning the priority of that last idea, just take a hard look at what has happened to the United States.]

Finally, be aware that climate change is impacting the global food production. Next, have a look at Ukraine's flag.  That golden band represents wheat fields.  It may be the "Golden Fleece" after all. Economic theories always seem to be infatuated with industry, but that may well be a thing of the past.  The whole world is awash with industry producing products with no market.

There is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- more foundational for a demand economy than food.

God speed, Ukraine.

Скорость бог Украине