Fake Bomb


It’s not going to take very long, I predict, before the FBI will have the guy who mailed fake bombs to CNN, Obama, Hillary Clinton, and left one at (or was it mailed?) George Soros’ house.

Unless the sender was very careful to avoid surveillance cameras while dropping the packages at the post office, they will immediately be able to identify the approximate origin and the date. Then, it’s a matter of retrieving the videos from that time-frame and seeing if the sender was dumb enough to drive a car to the dropoff. There are still ways that they could have evaded backtracking – disguises and talking a patsy into dropping the packages into a mailbox somewhere – but the sender’s tradecraft is not very good at all. On a scale of 1-10, it’s about a 1.

They don’t even know how to make a credible fake bomb. Not only that, they don’t really understand how mail-bombing someone works. I think it’s safe to say that our oligarchs are in no dire peril – not that that’s going stop all of the outraged flapping and screeching. The only thing that would do that is the discovery that it was a protofascist Trump fan who took his Sithlord’s attacks on the media too seriously. “Ha ha ha we weren’t really worried for Hillary Clinton, hahahaha.”

Let’s look at the credibility of the infernal device:

We don’t know (yet) what the presumed explosive is, but we can assume it’s not black gunpowder because that’s actually shock sensitive and it might not appreciate being mailed. Also, the ‘bomb’ is not very big so if you actually wanted to do damage, you’d want high explosive. Some high explosives would be fine in the mail – but there are other reasons (I will get to) that show that it’s not high explosive.

It’s hard to tell for sure but the body of the ‘bomb’ looks like a chunk of PVC pipe. PVC pipe is lightweight stuff; it’d make a pretty loud bang and the splinters might do some damage but to really make a good bomb you want fragments of steel or copper or something that carries energy when it hits your target. As I said, it looks like this is PVC – which means it’s a ‘firework’ not a ‘bomb’ unless it carried internal fragmentation. If it was a double-walled PVC pipe with the space between the wall filled with ball bearings, it’d be a credible bomb but then it’d be about 3 times the size of the fake, and it wouldn’t fit in the mailbox slot.

That’s just the beginning of the problems with this ‘bomb.’

The cheesy protective LCD fake numbers haven’t been peeled off the clock. But that’s a side-issue. The main problem is that you don’t use a clock as a detonator when you are trying to kill an individual. You want them to open the package, personally, otherwise it might just sit in the mail-room until ${whenever} and blow up a bunch of office memos. A mail-bomb that actually works is something like UNABOM used to make:

That’s a mock-up, actually, and it looks like it’s been bullshitted up a bit in an attempt to keep anyone from learning how to make a bomb for real. But it illustrates the key components: trigger that closes the circuit, batteries that energize the ignition system, ignition system, and explosive charge. In this case the tube is the ‘explosive charge’ and it’s cut away to show something that I assume is supposed to resemble a blasting cap. The alligator clips are how the bomber arms the entire system before they ship it. I believe the trigger (which doesn’t look right to me!) is supposed to be a spring-loaded switch that presses against the top of the box and flips to make contact when the box is opened.

Something like a kraft paper envelope doesn’t get your target to open the bomb in a way that will trigger it. I suppose you could make a bomb that had a very fine triggering wire in the envelope, which was energized and when the circuit dropped as the envelope was torn open, the relay (normally open, held open) would drop and energize the firing circuit. But that’s goofy: bombers want their bombs to be reliable not tricky. They want them to work. They want to live to bomb another day, too. [That’s why I think the UNABOM illustration is also bogus – there are wires floating all over the place and there is tons of unused space in there. Those wires would be hot-glued or taped to the box, the power circuit would be hardened with a bunch of gaffer tape, etc. I would not expect a bomb like that to survive shipping – and neither, apparently, did UNABOM – he started leaving the bombs in places where someone might kindly attempt to complete the delivery for him.]

The ‘bomb’ that was mailed doesn’t have a triggering circuit, at all. For it to be credible there’d be a secondary battery-pack and the alarm clock’s beeper circuit would energize a relay which would close the charging circuit that would dump the batteries into the blasting cap, and then you would have a great big mess. All of that is missing, though. There’s just an LED clock, which probably runs on a teeny little watch battery. The little buzzers in an alarm clock take about 1-5V. A real blasting cap takes about 3 amps and over 100 volts to fire reliably.

Also, if the firing circuit were wired into the alarm clock’s buzzer, then the wires coming out of the clock would be a) much finer and b) come from the same side of the alarm clock. The buzzer in the alarm clock is a little thing about the size of a pea, soldered onto the clock’s board; the bomber would have to unsolder the buzzer and tail their wires in where the buzzer’s terminals were connected. No great big fat wire is necessary; it’s not carrying household current. The firing circuit, in other words, is fake.

But that’s not the worst of it. Every part of the ‘bomb’ is fake:

This is what a blasting cap looks like:

a proper, inert (training) blasting cap

That’s what would be inside the tube, presumably, if there were high explosive in it that one wanted to set off.

High explosive is funny stuff. Aside from nitroglycerine or weird compounds like hexanitro [things I will not work with] most of the explosives that a home-brewing bomber would use are pretty stable. Ammonium nitrate/aluminum (AKA: tannerite) being a good example: you have to shoot it with a supersonic bullet to set it off. You can put ammonium nitrate on an anvil and hit it with a hammer and, uh, no, don’t. Well, I’m not going to try. You try it and let me know. The thing is that the bomber, pretty much by definition, wants to live to bomb another day – so you need something that is reliable to set off, plenty powerful, and not too touchy. The bomber doesn’t want to make fancy circuits or complicated wiring harnesses or blinky LEDs or anything like that – every additional thing in the control circuit is one more thing that might fail to go off at the right time, or might turn you into an impressionist finger-paint job on a wall.

There is a special case, which is some terrorist suicide bombers have used TATP (Acetone Peroxide) which is high explosive all right but it can be set off with impact or heat or it just gets grumpy and detonates. Or, if you’re like Richard Reid, “The Shoe Bomber” you can’t get it to go off when you try. [I do not believe his shoes were full of TATP because he walked in them and didn’t blow up in the parking lot] Another special case would be: gunpowder. If the tube were full of TATP or FFG black powder (which you can buy by the bottle out in Pennsylvania, for the hunters!) then I suppose that one wire in each side could be connected to a small chunk of nichrome wire – a fairly standard pyrotechnician’s “electric match.” If you’ve ever fired Estes model rockets, you’re familiar with electric matches. In fact, if you’ve ever fired Estes model rockets, you’re probably achingly familiar with how unreliable firing circuits and control circuits can be. And, if you’re a semi-competent bomber, you’d use an Estes electrical match into that tube full of black powder rather than trying to build your own, or make your own powder.

The Boston Marathon bombers used (allegedly) firework-scrapings in pressure cookers, so they probably used an electrical match and a relay/firing circuit timer. Their bombs, however, were large. If they used firework-scrapings that would have been potassium perchlorate/aluminum “flash powder” which is nasty stuff but is about 1/10 as nasty as it would have been if they had gone to WAL-MART’s sporting goods section and bought some black powder.

Of course it’s illegal and mean and a bad idea to mail anything remotely bomb-looking to anyone. Whoever did this has terrible trade-craft and has a good chance of getting caught and being an embarrassment. The FBI will, rightly, prosecute this as being just as serious as if they had sent an actual, working bomb. Because we do not to that, that is why.

a mis-designed bomb from The Hurt Locker
being mis-disarmed

I’d like to close on an upbeat note, so let me teach you how to disarm a bomb in a movie. We’ve all been there: Sam Harris has you strapped in a chair and a time-bomb with a big red LED is ticking down to zero; you’ll be blown to bits. But your 12-year-old plucky daughter appears with a pair of wire-cutters and there are 10 seconds left. You start yelling,, trying to man-splain instructions to her but she says “shhhh!” ignores you, and takes the wire cutters and cuts the two wires leading into the explosive charge. Then, for good measure, disconnects one of the batteries. Because, she knows that you only need two circuits and a relay or trigger to detonate a bomb and if the blasting cap can’t get power, nothing’s going to happen. You can clip pretty much any wire in a bomb and it’ll disable it, unless you had some artisan-bomber whose idea of triggering circuits was to build baroque Rube Goldberg devices.

Scenes like the ones in Die Hard II or The Hurt Locker where some psychopath has an overly-complicated bomb that’s counting down (the Sam Harris scenario) are just wrong. Any self-respecting psychopath will be watching from a distance with a reliable triggering circuit, and they’ll detonate the bomb right in the face of whoever comes to disarm it. The reason is simple: what if you actually are clever enough to disarm it? BOOM. You weren’t clever enough not to get inside its blast radius. (See stupid bomb illustration from The Hurt Locker)

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If you want to learn how to make improvised detonators, the best source is: The CIA! [cia] So if you want an unredacted print version, just ask your librarian! [wc]

And let’s not talk about John Travolta and Kevin Bacon fist-fighting with a ‘nuclear weapon’ in Broken Arrow. Or those bogus nuclear weapons in 24 – I’d have loved it if Jack Bauer said, “what’s that supposed to be, a gumball machine? Because it sure as hell isn’t a nuke.”

I used to ponder how to make a really wicked “movie bomb” – and here’s how: you take a great big block of plastic explosive and build a small controller board and triggering circuit that fits inside one of the blocks of plastic explosive. Then, on the outside, you put a great big LED countdown display and all that other nonsense. Perhaps the interior triggering circuit is an arduino board that counts down for an hour and then arms a set of inclinometers that will trigger an immediate detonation if the infernal device is ever moved again.

The Anarchist’s Cookbook recipes for some explosives are hollywood-level inaccurate. Given the ready availability of explosives in the 1960s, I’ve always wondered why they published a (pretty bad) recipe for nitroglycerine when you could drive to Pennsylvania and buy 50lb sacks of ammonium nitrate at Agway. Anyway: avoid those recipes.

UNABOM box: what’s with all the nails, Ted? That’s … unsound.

[EDIT] It occurs to me that whoever photographed the “bomb” probably also figured out it was not real. Because, if they thought it was a real bomb on a real count-down timer they <i>would have cut those wires before they photographed it</i>. That’s not a credible “ticking time bomb” scenario: photographing a bomb while the timer ticks down.

Comments

  1. jazzlet says

    The nails got me transfixed, and trying to work out why you would have so many that it looks like it would weaken the lid, but perhaps distraction of observant types is the point.

  2. says

    jazzlet@#1:
    Yeah, I wonder if it was an attempt to add fragmentation damage.

    I don’t think UNABOM’s bomb is highly competent. Compare all of this stuff to a military explosive like a claymore or a hand grenade and you can get an idea what a “real” bomb is like. We set off claymores in basic training, and threw grenades. There was absolutely no clowning around with the claymores once we saw what they did.

  3. says

    UPDATE: more “bombs.” When they catch this guy he is going to be very very unhappy. Although, it’s interesting how little the word “terrorist” is being thrown around. I think there’s knowledge that the bombs aren’t effective, but the sender could decide they have nothing to lose and step up their game, or encourage copycats.

    My bet is this is a conspiracy buff like Edgar Welch (pizzeria shooter) a fool. He probably expects that saying “hurrr hurrr the bombs were not real” is a defense.

  4. says

    CNN is portraying it as a real bomb. [cnn]

    (CNN)The bombs sent to prominent Democrats and CNN were simple but functional, and there are signs whoever was behind the attempted attacks didn’t know much about making bombs or disguising them, experts say.

    “Simple but functional”, do they mean that they achieved their function of looking scary? Because I don’t think they function in the normal sense of going “BANG!”

    Images of two devices — one found Monday at the home of billionaire investor George Soros and one sent to CNN’s New York office on Wednesday — appear to show a real device that could cause serious bodily injury or death, said Ryan Morris, founder of Tripwire Operations Group, a company that provides explosives training to law enforcement and military officials.

    I’m sure that it’s a choking hazard. But, joking aside, really?

  5. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Unabomber’s nails … slipped into the corrugations of the cardboard wrapper to add to the shrapnel, and not make noise or rattle.

    “The Anarchist’s Cookbook recipes for some explosives are hollywood-level inaccurate. Given the ready availability of explosives in the 1960s, I’ve always wondered why they published a (pretty bad) recipe for nitroglycerine” … in the 1960s it was rumored that the Anarchist’s Cookbook had deliberately bad recipes because it was written or edited to blow up unskilled people who wanted to blow up others, or produce duds. The authors or editors were claimed to be the “real” anarchists or the evil forces of “The Man” …

  6. says

    Although, it’s interesting how little the word “terrorist” is being thrown around.

    Maybe it’s because it was MSNBC I was watching but they used that word this morning.

    He probably expects that saying “hurrr hurrr the bombs were not real” is a defense.

    And when asked by other prisoners what he’s in for, he’ll be confused because he’ll say all he did was trigger some libs.

  7. kestrel says

    I used to work with explosives. One we worked with was a plastic explosive, and one day a dumb-ass on the crew took a piece and put it on a rock and hit it with a hammer. The hammer had a really amazing recoil, and it’s a lucky thing (in some ways, unlucky in others) that the dumb-ass’s head was not in a direct line with the hammer, because the impact would definitely have done some serious damage. So now you know: don’t put any explosives on your anvil and hit them with a hammer. Bad idea.

    Even though these things seem to be ineffective I do think whoever is responsible should be put in prison. Explosives are freaking *dangerous* and nothing to mess around with.

  8. dobby says

    Black powder is not shock sensitive, from personal experience and several web sites. I have seen high power rockets with multiple ejection charges go from zero to over mach in less than half a second with none of them going off. And you do not need a blasting cap to set it off, although you do need some type of ignitor.

  9. Maya says

    I think it’s irresponsible to claim this was a fake bomb. It’s crude, but appears functional in the X-ray.

    According to my web research (See this link for details from a University of Denver professor.) true black powder (ignoring other gun powders) is not shock sensitive.

    And from the x-ray linked in 7, the wire inside is coiled through the powder filling the case, and connected to both black and red wires leading to the clock. The red wire looks like it is connected to the coin-cell battery inside the alarm clock or kitchen timer, while the black wire is attached to the circuit board. I would presume its the place where the alarm buzzer would normally be connected.

    When the alarm time is reached, current would flow through the wire coil inside the bomb case, and start heating up (It’s essentially a short circuit). I have no idea if it could get hot enough to reach a temperature suitable for detonating the powder.

    The clock or timer also appears to be set behind the reapplied plastic mask. The plastic mask is the 11:35, it’s hard to make out what is behind it, but the hour looks like it is set to 9.

  10. komarov says

    Real or not, I wonder how the strategy is supposed to work. Do rich people open their own mail? Would they expect many parcels? If they feel something is missing around the house it’ll probably just turn up courtesy of an attentive staffer, and beyond mail order there isn’t much occasion for packages to arrive. Presumably this isn’t intended as a plot to assassinate the housekeepers of the upper class.

  11. Mano Singham says

    Interesting post.

    Did you see the episode of Sherlock (I think it was The Empty Hearse) about a bomb that was set to explode in a tube train under the parliament building? I won’t spoil it for you but after watching it I was curious if what was said about activating and de-activating such devices was true

  12. lorn says

    Professionals, those who use off-the-shelf explosives as a job, tend to prefer simple circuits. Setup is faster, testing is easy, troubleshooting is obvious, and, should it be necessary, disarming is equally simple. With a single charge disconnecting literally any wire disables it because there is only one circuit path. You are going to want to also isolate the primer, usually a blasting cap, and the power supply, and finally short out the primer leads to eliminate any chance of a stray voltage causing an explosion. There isn’t much mystery.

    Military users tend toward similar simplicity but add a second, more rarely a third, redundant detonator string.

    On the other hand, amateurs, particularly those who make or adapt for use field expedient materials, can be very idiosyncratic. While there are general principles, why would one put leads through multiple end-caps, there are always going to be creative types who fail to observe good design principles. In part because they may not be using standard parts, like regular blasting caps. Nothing says that if you are making your own electrical caps that the leads have to come off one end. It would be a bit odd but one off each end, and through separate end-caps could work.

    Those wires, I assume they are wires, seem mighty thick for the currents involved. Given their short length it wouldn’t take much to slip the insulation off a length of #12 solid and insert a number of finer wires. #20 telephone wire is easy to get. In that case you could be looking at several primers and a trap in the form of an apparent single conductors that triggers if you try to cut it with conventional tools.

    The point here is that disarming a device can be so complicated that there are no practical way of doing it. You just never know what sorts of devilishly clever traps are set for anyone messing with their baby. While a professional is paid and constrained in the sorts of complications they can indulge a fanatical amateur is free to spend all the time necessary to fulfill their twisted vision of un-disarmable perfection. Typically the safest thing is to evacuate the area, place a Baldric of some description next to the bomb, and blow it in place.

    People seeking to use home-brewed bombs to gain political ends are deluded. Often inspired by movies some seem to get off on the idea of a contest of wits with people who seek to disarm their creation. Better if you don’t play that game.

  13. avalus says

    You know Marcus, I would not really call this not a bomb. Kestrel is right, it is a bomb, even it is not working. Calling it fireworks does not help, comercial new-years-eve firework kills or maims people every year. You do not need Unabomber scale of carnage. Open a package and loose fingers, a hand or an eye or get your eardrums ruptured. Think of it as a forge-accident on demand.
    It is fortunate that the bombs were made by an incompetent, but even if these bombs never maimed or killed anyone, they instill fear in people. It is bad enough that someone thought it was a good idea to bomb political enemies.
    I think the points maya and lorn make are valid, too.

    I have only limited experience but black powder is not shock sensitive but very ‘touchy’ to sparks/static electricity which can give the impression of sock sensitivity.
    Bonus points for Thins I Won’t Work With :D

    Moviebombs: I think the Naked Gun has the best movie-bomb-movie-defuse. And then there is Dark Star.

    (These postage marks irk me)

  14. Curt Sampson says

    Well, in the end it doesn’t really matter if these were actually bombs or not, does it? They provoked the desired reaction regardless, and so were successful terrorism.

    I came through this post again clicking back on my way to the previous post, because I’ve been thinking further about that Arduino photography shutter timer thing, and was contemplating how easy it would be to breadboard up a nice little demo of it. I could even give it a nice user interface by adding an LED countdown display so Marcus would know when the next photo would be taken. It would be so low power that it would run for like a year off a nine volt battery.

    So if I were feeling particularly generous I’d build it up and send the operating device to Marcus by post, all ready to plug into his camera.

    Oh, wait…

  15. Aaron T says

    It will be interesting to see how these ‘bombs’ influence the outcome of the next two weeks’ political process in the US. My initial reaction upon learning about the situation was that these were fakes designed to be a false flag operation. Sort of like the immigrant caravan approaching the southern US border. Both of these ‘news’ items are way too conveniently timed to be random. I do not subscribe to ‘vast conspiracies’, but I do believe we’ve entered the realm of ‘wagging the dog’ with a lot of these ‘news’ items now having the feel of stagecraft.

  16. says

    I hope they say how he was caught. My guess is someone asked the NSA for: list of all IP addresses that googled for Robert De Niro’s Restaurant AND “James Clapper address” AND “CNN address” AND …

    But it could have been old school legwork: ask the letter carrier who collects the route where the packages came in if he remembers a particular mailbox where he had a dozen packages, all the same, etc.

  17. says

    I agree with all of you who are saying it doesn’t matter if they are working bombs or not.

    Personally, I found it comforting that I could look at the picture and immediately assess it as an empty threat. As we saw with UNABOM a letter bomb can severely maim a person and not kill them. I don’t want anyone to get wounded or killed. So I was happy to know that wasn’t going to happen with this set of bombs – but I worried because sometimes it means the bomber is going to level up their game. I was happy that the bomber appeared to have really bad tradecraft.

    It’s going to be interesting how this drama plays out.

    I probably will post more about this story, because there are some interesting things I noticed in how the media reported it. But I’m glad nobody was hurt and I am sure the bomber is about to have a really bad rest of his life.

  18. says

    lorn@#14:
    Amateurs also test their stuff. Usually when they are caught, there’s a whole bomb-making evolution and lab. Then you get (as you say) highly idiosyncratic devices once the bomber finds something that works. I remember reading somewhere that the guy who did many bombs in 1968 had a very recognizable style.

    Other than ceramic taggants in explosives I am sure there are loads of other tricks.

  19. lorn says

    I don’t think that these items are going to change a thing.

    Democrats already know that the suffering of others, outside their tribe, means nothing to Republicans. The casual and well practiced small-scale cruelty of Trump lies on one end of the scalar. The glee expressed, usually in assumed safe interior tribal spaces, at elderly others subsisting on cat food and the frequently expressed desire for a final solution where liberalism is destroyed as a concept and are shadows of the other end.

    Liberals who have been paying attention know this. The rest will come around as the violence and contempt becomes more obvious. The left is not surprised or put off by bombs.

    The right is in the process of accepting, embracing, and normalizing their reflexive tribal love of power over humanity as expressed through racism, sexism, and xenophobia. Their ceremonies are rituals of power, dominance, and contempt for weakness, knowledge, and nuance.

    They have been forging their weakness and fears into masks that terrorize and scepters of iron to pound any who resist into pulp. They are at the stage when the weakling picks them up and struts in front of a mirror. They are learning to savor and love the feeling of raw power. They are learning to love what they see in the mirror.

    They are, so far, apprehensive about wearing the mask and swinging their scepter in public. Chinos and Tiki torches are pale imitations. They have always been cowards. But soon enough it seems there will be sufficient institutionally inflicted physical and economic violence to allow them to blend. But not just yet.

    For them these bombs are aspiration in that they want a world where attacks on well known liberal are common, but also angering in that they remind them of their own weakness because, as far as any can tell, they all failed. Proof they are ineffectual children longing to be powerful. As such it will be quickly forgotten.

    Liberals already understand. The right only regret that they didn’t go off. Besides Limbaugh has already implied that the bombs were part of a false-flag operation. Nothing will change.

  20. Reginald Selkirk says

    hollywood-level inaccurate

    I watched a Roger Corman movie just the other day: Dinocroc vs. Supergator. One of the characters detonates a cloud of powdered sugar dust. I was surprised by the realism.

    I watched the recent movie The Old Man & the Gun. In one scene, the Redford character is constructing some bombs, but they are not a part of the usual M.O. and never get used. Chekhov’s Gun was not respected.

    Another aspect of this episode is the reaction of Ill President. Not acceptable.

  21. lorn says

    Some of the mystery; bomb or fake, failed design or idiosyncratic, and how willing the man was to get caught or be made a martyr might be explained by something I heard on the radio listening to NPR yesterday. The commentator noted that the man had a long history of criminal activity, was a avid follower of FOX news, and bought into quite a few conspiracy theories. Given the outside of the van this fits.

    Possibly most revealing however was that he was what used to be called ‘simpleminded’. He had some sort of mental defect. It sounded to me like borderline retardation.

    Having been around marginally retarded folks I can see how he could be drawn into the circus atmosphere surrounding rallies and political events. How he would begin to crave the positive reinforcement when he pushed the limits with his signs and voluble, enthusiastic participation. How he might take the hyperbole and rhetoric in without any skeptical detachment and how, if you take it all in at face value, bombing might seem a reasonable action.

    At some level I feel sorry for this guy. He needed a friend to guide him. What he got was temporary minor fame as a buffoon and exploited by a propaganda machine. With hands dirty he will pay a penalty. While the people who put him to this task walk away with legally, but not ethically, clean hands. So it goes.

  22. says

    lorn@#27:
    Some of the mystery; bomb or fake, failed design or idiosyncratic, and how willing the man was to get caught or be made a martyr might be explained by something I heard on the radio listening to NPR yesterday. The commentator noted that the man had a long history of criminal activity, was a avid follower of FOX news, and bought into quite a few conspiracy theories. Given the outside of the van this fits.

    Yes, and well said.

    [ If the fellow were a muslim, the FBI would have probably picked him up sooner. Imagine someone driving around with a truck covered with ISIS crap. There’s a similar desire to be martyred, I suspect. ]

    Having been around marginally retarded folks I can see how he could be drawn into the circus atmosphere surrounding rallies and political events. How he would begin to crave the positive reinforcement when he pushed the limits with his signs and voluble, enthusiastic participation. How he might take the hyperbole and rhetoric in without any skeptical detachment and how, if you take it all in at face value, bombing might seem a reasonable action.

    Such people are the natural prey of popes, con artists, confidence-men, and politicians. It is exactly why a reasonable society disapproves of speech that is designed to incite. And that’s why politicians are so fond of walking right down the line between rhetoric and incitement – I’m thinking of the great artists’ rendering of such a speech by Marc Antony in Julius Caesar – oh, no, we don’t want a riot or a revolution, but if we did…

    At some level I feel sorry for this guy. He needed a friend to guide him. What he got was temporary minor fame as a buffoon and exploited by a propaganda machine. With hands dirty he will pay a penalty. While the people who put him to this task walk away with legally, but not ethically, clean hands. So it goes.

    Unfortunately. The most unfortunate part is that the people who put him to this task will get away with it, as you say.

    I forget what sci-fi book contained it, but there was a description of someone as being “a sword, waiting for a hand to wield them.” This guy was, perhaps, a blunt instrument. But just as damaging.

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