The modern tradition continues today with news of a right winger in Maine who got himself shot by his wife, who he had been abusing for years. It turns out that when the police searched the house, they found industrial grade hydrogen peroxide - critical to the manufacture of homemade explosives - and various metal dusts used for amplifying the explosion. More importantly, however, was the radioactive material he had stockpiled, and the extensive research he had on the more potent isotopes - Cesium 137, notably. His wife explained that things had gotten a lot worse since the election of Obama, which made her husband "very, very angry."
Our very own homegrown dirty-bomber! And this was the real thing, too, unlike Padilla. This man had already assembled most of the components for the bomb, and was wealthy enough to get the last piece - the Cesium. A single order from a medical imaging maintenance company and he'd be in ready to pull the trigger. In fact, one of my old customers sells the things. If you've got the money, the bomb isn't hard to pull off.
Now, the question becomes, "what's the deal with a dirty bomb? what can it do?" The answer, even with Cesium 137 as the payload, is "it can scare you." You see, given the amount and potency of radioactive material in imagined dirty bombs, the resultant level of contamination just isn't big enough to kill people or even make them seriously ill. Even with a large supply of dangerously radioactive material, the explosion disperses it exponentially with distance. The resulting average dose would be less than 50 rem, which you would barely notice. The danger of a dirty bomb is the danger of the panic caused by it's use. The public itself becomes the weapon. This is why it was so shameful that the Bush Administration continued hyping the dirty bomb threat, making sure that in such event the public panic could be as feverish as possible.
Way-to-go, Bushies. Just one more thing they screwed up.