Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Night and Day: Mueller versus Barr on criminal conspiracy/collusion

I just watched Mueller give his brief statement on his investigation, and the difference between his statement on his own investigation and how William Barr described it could not be more stark.

When William Barr gave his summary, all he did was repeat, "NO COLLUSION, NO COLLUSION!!!"  He was the parrot on Trump's shoulder.

Here was how Mueller put it:  "insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy."

That is, shall we say, rather different from NO COLLUSION, or TOTAL EXONERATION.  This is precisely the point I made in response to Barr's summary and the report itself, so I guess I sound like a broken record, or a parrot, or something.

Regardless, I think it is a useful exercise to watch that statement side-by-side with Barr's press performance summarizing Mueller's report.  Night and day.

Mitch McConnell and a 2020 Supreme Court vacancy

Absolutely nobody has any right to be shocked by McConnell's admission that he'd fill a Supreme Court vacancy with a Trump appointment in 2020.  His 2016 blockade and supposed justification didn't even pass the laugh test.

I have been writing recently that American democracy is in a state that can best be described as 'mate in three.  The game is effectively over, and we're just going through the motions.  To remind you of another of my comments, it was this.  When the epitaph for American democracy is written, it will read as follows:  Murdered in cold blood by Mitch McConnell.

McConnell's blockade of Scalia's seat on the Supreme Court was a decision he made.  Not Trump, McConnell, and he did so before Trump even had the 2016 nomination locked up.  Trump is merely a symptom of a greater problem.  The person who has done the most damage to American democracy, I would argue, ever, is Mitch McConnell.  Trump would be powerless without McConnell.

Long before it became the topic of discussion among the left, I started predicting court-packing on this blog as a response to McConnell's stunt.  If the Democrats actually did manage to get control of the White House and Senate, it would be the strategically necessary response at this point.  No choice.  None whatsoever, if the party had a brain.  Then again, don't count on the party actually getting there.

Murdered in cold blood by Mitch McConnell.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Tuesday music: If you only listen to American music, you just suck

There really isn't such a thing as generic European music.  In lieu of that, here's a live performance of the title track from Departure, by Axel Schultheiss.


Sunday, May 26, 2019

Donald Trump isn't un-American, he is pre-American

I have been trying to think of a unifying explanation for Donald Trump's approach to the social world, and this is it:  Donald Trump is a time-traveler.  Or, Rip Van Winkle, if you prefer.  Or, when he was born in the pre-Revolutionary War era, his ego was so massive that its gravitational field created relativistic effects, and proximity to himself slowed time such that he experienced time at a slower rate than everyone around him, effectively aging slowly, and arriving in our era with pre-Revolutionary War notions of government and economics.  As Max Planck once said, science advances one funeral at a time, and the same can be said in the social sciences as in the physical sciences.  People of a certain age have a difficult time coming to understand that what they learned in their youths was wrong, and Donald J. Trump, time-traveler, is subject to the Max Planck problem as it relates to concepts of government and economics.

Allow me to elaborate.

The central innovation of what we call democracy, distinguishing it from monarchy, is not really suffrage, or so I shall argue in this little post.  After all, suffrage did not extend to women, nor to people of color, who were held as slaves at the time of the founding.  Instead, the greatest innovation was to separate the state from the person at the head of the state.  In a monarchy, the monarch is the state.  The king or queen is the state, and the full power of the state is vested in, embodied in the monarch.  Hence, loyalty to the state-- loyalty to the country, even-- is indistinguishable from loyalty to the head of state.  To be disloyal to the monarch is to be disloyal to the state, and to the country.  They are all one and the same.

One of the great innovations of democracy is to separate the head of the state from the state itself, and even the state from the nation.  The nation is the abstraction of that with which the people identify.  The whole.  The group.  We the people.  America.  Blah, blah, blah.  The state is the government.  The head of the state... Um... The president is the head of the executive branch, which isn't the same as the head of the government.  It is simply one branch of the government.  We don't have one person in charge of the whole government.  At least, in theory, and according to the Constitution.  The theory, and the innovation, though, is to distinguish the head of the state-- the person-- from the state itself, which is not a distinction that exists in a monarchy.

You get where I'm going here.  Donald J. Trump cannot comprehend this distinction.  Like a Planckian throwback of a scientist unable to comprehend innovations developed after he took his comprehensive exams based on the grad school classes that... he... never took, Trump cannot wrap his very-stable-genius brain around the post-1776 concept of distinguishing the head of the state from the state itself, nor the distinction between the state and the nation.  Hence, in Donald J. Trump's Trump-brain, Trump is not only the head of state, he is also America.  "I am America.  (And so can you!)"  Really, so much of the time, he seems like a caricature that it is difficult to grasp the fact that he thinks he's for real.  That old Colbert character didn't.  Rather terrifying.

In a monarchy, the head of state is the state, and the embodiment of the nation.  Hence, the monarch not only has unchecked authority, but to act against the head of state is to act against the state itself, which is to act against the nation.

Now, think about Trump's frequent use of the term, "treason."  Treason has a legal definition in the US, but Donald J. Trump doesn't know how to read.  He doesn't know the legal definition, and he doesn't care.  In a pre-1776 monarchy, to act against the head of state is treason.  He is the head of state, and the embodiment of the nation.  Any action taken against Trump, by his pre-1776 understanding of the world, really would be treason.

If you think you are a monarch rather than a president, and if you don't understand the innovations of governmental theory brought by the Revolutionary War, these things follow logically.

I am writing this in a snarky manner, but yes, this really is essentially why Trump uses the word, "treason," in the way that he does.  He believes that the president is the head of state and embodiment of the nation, and he does not grasp the fact that the underlying political theory of the Revolutionary War was to separate those concepts, because that's the point of not having a monarchy.  He... truly doesn't get this.

I'm not done.  What else happened in 1776?  Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations.  As I have noted many times, Donald J. Trump is not actually a capitalist.  He is a mercantilist.  Mercantilism is a debunked economic theory based on the notion that trade is zero-sum.  It is pre-fiat currency, and built on the idea that whichever nation buys a product has lost because it has lost its gold, and whichever side sells the product has won because it has accumulated more gold.  The object of the game is to accumulate more gold because whoever gets the most gold wins.  Trade deficits, obviously, mean you are losing.  GOLD!

Adam Smith debunked this nonsense by demonstrating that economies flourish through positive-sum trades.  In voluntary transactions, both the buyer and the seller do better by engaging in the exchange because economic transactions are not zero-sum.  That's how and why capitalism works.

Donald J. Trump is a mercantilist.  He is unable to comprehend the two-and-a-half-century-old observation that voluntary economic transactions are positive-sum, because he cannot wrap his very-stable-genius brain around the notion of anything not being zero-sum.  His obsession with tariffs and trade wars, trade deficits, and so forth... this is all because he missed the other critical lesson of 1776-- the concept of capitalism.  Like a Newtonian who cannot grasp quantum mechanics, and hence not only rejects it, but pretends it doesn't exist, Trump simply speaks as a relic of a pre-1776 world.

He cannot grasp the concept of a head of state who isn't the state embodied, and the nation embodied.  He cannot grasp capitalism.

Cryogenics didn't exist in the pre-Revolutionary War era, and they aren't effective now.  Wormholes?  Basically theoretical.  Relativity?  Measurable, but it requires either speeds we cannot achieve, or gravitational forces that would have had other consequences.

Certain other animals have very long life-spans, but Trump does appear biologically human.

I really can't figure out why these not very modern concepts are so far beyond his grasp.

Unless he's just really, really stupid.

Sunday music: If you don't love bluegrass, you hate America

Phillips, Grier & Flinner, "A Long Time Ago," from their self-titled album.


Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Democrats' impeachment trap and my running commentary on "democratic backsliding" in the US

In recent posts, I have been leaning heavily on the ideas of Levitsky & Ziblatt from How Democracies Die, and the metaphor I have been making is 'mate in three, or some variation thereof.  Essentially, the game is not formally over for American democracy, but we are sort of running through the motions because the trap really is set.  The Democrats' impeachment dilemma-- the focus of much discussion lately-- demonstrates my point nicely, I think.  First, impeachment itself.

The Constitution is, actually, rather vague on what constitutes an impeachable offense.  According to Donald Trump, you cannot impeach a president if the economy is doing well, but of course, Donald Trump has never read the Constitution, and probably cannot read.  What the Constitution actually says about impeachment is that it is reserved for "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors."  The really problematic part is that word, "misdemeanors."  Treason, we can define, and it isn't defined the way Trump defines it.  Bribery is similarly clear.  "High crimes" is most easily defined in terms of felonies.  The biggest question mark is the misdemeanors part.  Anyway, though, what do we have on Trump?

The clearest case against Trump is that he is committing emoluments violations.  He is running a business from the Oval Office, and steering business from foreign governments to his own properties by his position as president.  That's a good case for an emoluments violation.  Michael Cohen named him as a conspirator to violate campaign finance law in a criminal way in the Stormy Daniels case.  Add to that the "catch-and-kill" arrangement that Trump had with other stories that AMI kept bottled up, and you have a pattern, and Trump is at the center.  The Mueller investigation didn't provide anything on Trump, personally, in terms of criminal conspiracy, or even the more loosely-defined term, "collusion."  All of the collusion was done by his flunkies, which means you can't impeach him for it.  The trickier thing was obstruction of justice.  Mueller came to no conclusion, although William Barr, of course, said from the beginning, before even seeing the report, that the president was immune from any such charges, so Barr's opinion should be ignored.  This is where we get into the distinction between the felony charge of obstruction of justice and that term in the Constitution, "misdemeanor."  To charge someone under obstruction, you need "criminal intent," meaning there must be an underlying crime, and the problem for Mueller, and I called him on this, was that if he didn't have the goods on Trump engaging in criminal conspiracy, then finding an obstruction charge was a shaky thing.

Here's the thing, though.  That's the US criminal code.  "High crimes."  What about "misdemeanors?"  The term is less clearly codified.  Consult your local lawyer, which I ain't, for what constitutes true misdemeanors at any given level of government, but at the federal level, the term is weird because it is usually a state/local thing.

So, if not the federal crime of "obstruction of justice," what about attempted obstruction of justice?  Sideshow Bob may have complained about charges of "attempted murder" because there is no Nobel for "attempted chemistry," but in the federal code, there really isn't a charge for attempted obstruction.  Still... Remember how Trump escaped the charge, under Mueller's report, for the McGahn matter.  He told McGahn to fire Mueller, and McGahn didn't.  Had McGahn followed Trump's orders, that would have been obstruction, according to Mueller.  Under the federal code, that's a question mark, and for question marks, give it to the defendant, generally, although I don't like the idea of "give it to the defendant" in a matter like this when "give it to the defendant" means leave the most corrupt and dishonest person in history in the most powerful position in the world.  Given the phrasing in the Constitution, though, the lower standard gives Congress a pretty clear way to say no dice, so to speak, to the guy who was too stupid to make money with a casino.  Trump attempted to obstruct justice, and just because he failed, that may clear him in terms of criminal law, but in terms of the misdemeanors part of Article II Section 4, that's really not someone who is fit to hold office.  Add that to firing Comey, dangling pardons, coordinating with Manafort during Manafort's proffer agreement, and while you may not be able to meet the criminal conviction standard of obstruction, the extent of corrupt actions Trump took, by any abstract ethical standard, is staggering.

Next, tax fraud.  The real reason Congress needs his tax returns is that anyone with a brain is 99.9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% certain that Trump is currently committing tax fraud, while also hiding other illegal activities in his taxes.  The statute of limitations is up on the money he illegally funneled from his father and hid from the IRS, but anyone who thinks he stopped committing tax fraud is as stupid as the people who enrolled in Trump University, which brings me to...

Fraud is a crime.  Trump settled in civil court for damages done to those taken in by his con with Trump University, but fraud is a crime, and Trump University is as clear a case of fraud as you will ever see in a politician.  But it isn't the only one.  The Trump Foundation has already been shut down because it, too, was fraud.  And they were linked.  Trump actually used donations made to his fraudulent charity, the Trump Foundation, to make an illegal campaign contribution to Pam Bondi, then Florida AG, to call off an investigation into the fraud that was the Trump University.  Fraud upon fraud, with a dollop of illegal campaign contributions on top.  When I say that Donald J. Trump is the most crooked politician in American history by far, this is not hyperbole.  It isn't a close contest.  Nixon, Harding, Long, Tweed... Take your pick.  None of them can even come close to the extent and totality of Trump's corruption.  Why?  Because those corrupt politicians were politicians first, and crooks second.  Trump is a crook first, and a politician second.  Crook is his vocation.  Politics?  Merely his avocation.

Oh, and he uses an unsecured personal cell phone, after basing half of his campaign in 2016 on getting the rubes to chant, "lock her up!" because Clinton used a personal email account as Sec. State.  Is that actually impeachable?  No, but if stupidity and hypocrisy were, then throw his lying ass to the curb.

Point being, there is a lot here worthy of impeachment, and there has never been a politician more unfit for office than Donald J. Trump.

In a previous post, I made reference to the dramatic concept of Chekhov's gun.  This is the principle that an element introduced to the audience must be used, or it is a narrative cheat.  Impeachment, if it cannot be used, ever, is the constitutional equivalent of Chekhov's gun, and if we have reached the point at which impeachment is Chekhov's gun, then our constitutional order is as broken as a narrative structure that violates Anton's dramatic admonition.  Hence, 'mate in three.

House Democrats have three options.  Begin impeachment proceedings and follow through.  Begin impeachment proceedings and don't follow through.  Don't begin impeachment proceedings.  Let's walk through them.

If House Democrats actually impeach Trump, here's what happens.  First, the Senate acquits him.  I will state this with 100% certainty.  Regardless of the charges, regardless of what new evidence Congress could get from the tools that supposedly come from opening impeachment proceedings (more on this shortly), Republicans hold the conviction votes under 50%, and I state this with absolute, 100% certainty.  I am a statistician, and disinclined to state anything with absolute, 100% certainty, but this I state with absolute, 100% certainty.

OK, I'll walk that back slightly.  If wild, random events happen to kill enough Republican senators in states with Democratic governors, along with Republican governors in ways that have them weirdly replaced with Democrats, then more weird, random events kill the Republican senators from those states such that the weirdly-placed Democratic governors can appoint a bunch of Democrats...

Then the rash of lightning strikes, car accidents and heart attacks that somehow gave the Democrats 2/3 of the Senate would allow them to convict Trump.

Anyone bettin' on this?  No?  Even our moron President, who couldn't make money running a casino, could figure out the right bet here.

So, what happens if the Democrats impeach and then the Senate acquits?  Trump wins in 2020.  Period.  As I have written before, the odds are in his favor anyway, since most incumbent presidents are re-elected, and the economy isn't showing signs of collapsing, but this becomes 1998 redux.  Nancy Pelosi knows this, which is why she doesn't want to impeach.  You go from a high likelihood of Trump winning in 2020 to near-certainty.

What if the Democrats begin impeachment proceedings but don't follow through?  This is the logic of some of the current rumblings.  Supposedly, by initiating impeachment proceedings, courts will look more favorably on subpoenas, etc.  Several problems.  First, Trump will never, under any circumstances, obey any court orders with respect to subpoenas.  All enforcement powers are held by... the executive branch.  Remember Andrew Jackson!  He'll dare Congress to impeach him for that.  That's exactly where this goes. He wants to be impeached!

I'm going to type that again, just to make this clear.  Donald J. Trump wants to be the third president in US history to be impeached.  Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump.  That is his goal.  He wants this.  Democrats are walking into Trump's open arms.  Maybe they should listen to that Access Hollywood tape again before walking into his open arms.

Why does he want to be impeached, or even have impeachment proceedings?  See previous scenario. The impeachment proceedings themselves will still create the 2020 campaign dynamic he wants.  We're back to the previous scenario, and Trump hands over zero information.

And if the Democrats don't impeach?  Then essentially, the presidency is a branch above the law.  A unitary executive, bordering on monarch with no checks or balances.  And Trump still probably wins in 2020.  By virtue of not being used, impeachment becomes a nonexistent process, and the executive becomes enshrined as an unchecked position informally.

That's democratic backsliding.  Levitsky & Ziblatt territory.  So, there's the trap.  Democrats have three options, and none of them preserve the constitutional order.  That's what I mean when I say, 'mate in three.  We are sliding.  Backwards, and there's nothing to give us any traction.  Impeachment is simply not a tool that is any use, and if it isn't any use, then there aren't any processes.

Why not?  Well, Levitsky & Ziblatt.  Ideological collusion, by the Republican Party.  They would rather reduce the corporate tax rate and install judges like Kavanaugh and Gorsuch than preserve anything like a small-d democratic order.

As I have written before, one of the most critical elements of democracy is that participants need to be willing to lose, referencing Loser's Consent, by Anderson et al.  If one party doesn't consent to lose, and decides that it will tolerate any level of corruption to avoid losing, then that's it.  'Mate in three.  The threshold for impeachment is 2/3 in the Senate, which would nearly always require bipartisan agreement.  That means a party deciding that corruption on its own side no longer matters nullifies that portion of the Constitution.

Saturday music: If you don't love country, you hate 'mer'ca

Jason Isbell, "Speed Trap Town," from Something More Than Free.


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Tuesday music: If you only listen to American music, you just suck

Yeah... more Iran sabre-rattling and China trade war nonsense.  I got nothin'.  Instead, here's something weird.  "Jacaranda," by Bracha, from their self-titled and only album.


Monday, May 20, 2019

Brief comment on Justin Amash's break from the GOP on impeachment

As you may have read, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) has become the first, and probably the last Republican official to call Trump's behavior impeachable.  This post is just a quick comment on Amash's position in the GOP.  Basically, he was an outsider long before this happened.

Remember when the GOP took control of the House in the 2010 election?  John Boehner had a hell of a time keeping the right flank in line.  There were showdowns over the debt ceiling and shutdowns multiple times, and his big problem was that, eventually, he actually needed his own party to vote for the deals he cut.  Some of them...  didn't wanna...  After a couple of years of this, Boehner needed to make an example of some hardliners.  He picked three, and stripped them of their committee assignments.

You need to understand, this was a REALLY big deal.  This is not a thing that is done.  But, Boehner needed to show that he was serious.  He picked three hardliners to punish:  Dave Schweikert, Tim Huelskamp, and...

… [drum roll]…

Justin Amash.

He also punished a relative moderate-- Walter Jones.

Jones is dead, Schweikert is under a serious ethics investigation, and Huelskamp got primaried for being too conservative!  That's right.  The "establishment" primaried Huelskamp, and won!  You never hear about that one, do you?  Why not?  Doesn't fit the conventional bullshit narrative.

Lesson for today, though?  Justin Amash stands alone in the GOP.

Monday morning blues: If you don't love blues, you hate America

Something a little different.  Here's Warren Haynes' solo acoustic version of a song he did with the Allman Brothers.  From The Lone, here's "The End of the Line."


Sunday, May 19, 2019

Gaming out the state abortion bans and Roe v. Wade

GOP-controlled states are rushing to pass laws in an effort to force the Supreme Court to either uphold or reverse Roe v. Wade.  Alito, Thomas and Gorsuch would definitely vote to reverse Roe if given a chance, and Republicans pushing for "heartbeat" bills and similar legislation are betting that both Roberts and Kavanaugh will too.  These laws will be appealed to the Supreme Court, and as a reminder, the procedure here is that four justices are required for a writ of certiorari, which grants a hearing before the Supreme Court.  One of two things happens.  Either a writ is granted and we see for certain where Roberts and Kavanaugh fall, or it is denied.

Why might it be denied?  Well, that depends on what happens in the lower courts, but here's a scenario.  The liberals win on appeal, and these state laws start getting blocked because they are in conflict with existing Supreme Court precedent (Roe).  What if the Court, as a whole, remains uncertain about Roberts and Kavanaugh?  The liberal bloc (Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor) may oppose granting a writ because they have their temporary victory, and don't want to give the Court a chance to strike down Roe, based on their uncertainty over Roberts and Kavanaugh.  The conservatives (Alito, Thomas and Gorsuch) might not trust that both Roberts and Kavanaugh would side with them, and they'd need both to overturn Roe, because without both, they'd just add another case to the list of precedents upholding it.  So, if the liberals win on appeal, uncertainty over Roberts and Kavanaugh could lead to a denial of certiorari.  Or, maybe Alito, Thomas and Gorsuch stand alone.  Three ain't enough for certiorari anyway.

In practical terms, this scenario doesn't rely on there being any uncertainty about Kavanaugh, and really, I don't think there is any.  Susan Collins is simply the dumbest person in the Senate.  (And in a chamber that includes Bernie Sanders, that's quite an accomplishment!)  Roberts is really all that matters here.  However, the key to this problem is that Roberts actually has shown some unpredictability, and a reasonable assessment of him is that he'd rather uphold any given abortion restriction on narrow grounds rather than overturn Roe entirely.  The issue is that the state laws being passed wouldn't give him that option.  So, what's an unpredictable and disingenuous weasel to do?  Therein lies the uncertainty.  It must, however, cut both ways for this problem to exist.  If the liberals know he's on their side, they grant certiorari.  If the conservatives know he's on their side, they grant certiorari.

What happens, though, if the conservatives start winning on appeal?  It would mean that the lower courts are ignoring precedent, but, um... that can happen.  And it would change the calculations.  It would mean that the liberals would have to roll the dice, even in the face of uncertainty over Roberts, and grant certiorari.  They couldn't let those laws stand, with approval from federal appeals courts.

So, what's going to happen?  I don't know.  These laws cannot he upheld under existing precedent, but I've pretty much given my opinion of the legal system as it relates to constitutional interpretation before.  Judges do whatever the hell they feel like doing, and rationalize it however they want, when they bother.  Thanks to that useless idiot, Susan Collins, people are pretending that Kavanaugh is a question mark as it relates to Roe, but come on!  There is a sort of question mark:  Roberts.  I'm not 100% confident that he votes to overturn Roe (although I'd put the number way over 50%), and since the laws are written to force that choice, that turns the matter of granting writs of certiorari into a strategic choice.  If nobody on the Court knows for certain what Roberts will do, then the game of granting or denying writs becomes a strategic choice.

So, let's just formalize that quickly, shall we?  Because this really is what I do.  To simplify it, let's just presume that Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor are liberals who want Roe upheld, and Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, Alito and Thomas are conservatives who want it reversed.  I'm done with the "uncertainty over Kavanaugh" crap.  I've written multiple paragraphs this morning pretending that he's a question mark, and I'm sick of it.  He's a conservative, he wants to overturn Roe, and that's all there is to it.  Anyone got a problem with that?  No?  Good.  Moving on.

There are two outcomes:  Roe is upheld (R), and Roe is struck down (NR).  Every liberal has a utility function of Ul(R)>Ul(NR), and every conservative has a utility function of Uc(R)<Uc(NR).  What is required for a Justice to grant a writ of certiorari?  Let p be an arbitrary liberal's belief about the probability that Roberts will vote to uphold Roe.  If a writ is granted, and Roe is upheld, the liberal gets Ul(R), but if Roe is struck down, then the liberal gets Ul(NR).  There is a p probability that the liberal gets Ul(R), and a (1-p) probability that the liberal gets Ul(NR).  So, our liberal gets the following utility by granting certiorari.:

pUl(R)+(1-p)Ul(NR)

Is granting certiorari rational?  Well, that depends on what happens in the absence of a writ.  To what do we compare this expression?  That depends on the lower courts, which was my previous logic.

So, here's how a rough model would work.  Right now, the contest is about holding ground for the liberals.  State laws are trying to take ground away from the liberals.  If the lower courts let them, then the liberals need to make that up.  You would compare that expression to some value, b, where Ul(NR)<Ul(b)<Ul(R).  Why?  Because abortion will have been effectively banned in some but not all states with indeterminate federal status.  It becomes rational to grant certiorari if the following inequality holds.

pUl(R)+(1-p)Ul(NR) > Ul(b)

If the liberals win at the lower level, then you are basically comparing that formula to Ul(R).  They aren't the relevant actors.  They have no reason to grant certiorari.  Instead, it turns to conservatives.

On the conservative side, the formula looks similar.  Granting certiorari for a conservative yields the following:

pUc(R)+(1-p)Uc(NR)

What's different is the effect of losing.  For conservatives, losing is defaulting to the current status quo, and they'll get another shot.  Suppose they grant a writ and lose.  So what?  They have lost nothing because they default to the current status quo.  And pretty soon, Ginsburg will die, and Breyer is 80.  Even if Trump doesn't get another appointment this term, he is highly likely to win reelection in 2020, and Roe IS going down.  It's just a waiting game.  And by that reasoning, the conservatives may as well grant a writ no matter what, and take their chances with Roberts because Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh don't give a rat's anal sphincter about precedent, and the next Trump appointment won't either, so the cost to them of Roberts voting to uphold Roe is less than the cost to liberals anyway.

Fundamentally, then, this is an asymmetric process.  Time is on the conservatives' side.  Roe is going down.

Of course, that won't be much comfort to those who believe that life begins at conception.  It logically follows from that belief that abortion is murder.  For some reason, liberals don't want to believe that anyone actually holds this belief, hence their befuddlement at the laws that Republicans have been passing, but, you know... try listening once in a while.