He's more NORML than he appears
February 16, 2008 7:00 AM   Subscribe

You may know Rick Steves the Travel Dweeb from his PBS series on European travel tips, which he has leveraged to build a burgeoning tourism business. But the dude's down with the cause(s) , including serving as the host of an ACLU-sponsored program on drug law reform.
posted by Kibbutz (24 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Travel Dweeb? Is that necessary?

However, his additional interests are surprising.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 7:37 AM on February 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's amazing that we still call ourselves 'the land of the free' when we have more people locked up than any industrialized nation. More than China, even, which has four times the population and a heavy-handed freedom-restricting government. We should be collectively ashamed of ourselves for allowing so many people to be imprisoned for something as innocuous as marijuana. Some wise dude once said that those who forget the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them. Clearly, a lot of people have forgotten about Prohibition, and how it caused massive mob violence and underground peddling of not-real-safe alcohol. Prohibition 1.0 was a disaster. Maybe someday our elected officials will realize that Prohibition 2.0 has also been a disaster. If not, perhaps they should be UN-elected.
posted by jamstigator at 7:54 AM on February 16, 2008

Wow. He's way more complex than I imagined.

I completely had him figured in a different direction. Bad me for assuming!
posted by batmonkey at 8:28 AM on February 16, 2008

Clearly, a lot of people have forgotten about Prohibition, and how it caused massive mob violence and underground peddling of not-real-safe alcohol.

What amazes me about cannabis prohibition is how the US has managed to push it on the entire world through the single convention on narcotic drugs. Unlike the last time Canada supplied America's desire for prohibited libations, it's illegal here now too, which just brings all these ancilliary problems, especially gang violence. It used to be that most grow shows in BC were just mom and pop hippie stoner operations. Of course, the flow of pot across the border brought the attention of the DEA, which demaned that municipalities, the province, and the federal government crack down on our homegrown industry. All this seems to have done is push the growing into the hands of less risk averse organizations, mostly gangs--typically the Hell's Angels who mostly just transport it, and Vietnamese gangs, who mostly grow.

A decade of "cracking down" on grow shows and organized crime has predictably resulted in concentrating this industry in the hands of the most brazen and violent among us. Pot is still flowing across the border virtually unimpeded, and now we get guns coming the other way. Thanks America, that sure is a good deal; you get our pot, and we get your guns to fuel violence bred by American prohibitionists who control our domestic drug policy.

This week's Economist compared Vancouver to Prohibition era Chicago. And the answer from the establishment? Escalate the war; put more cops on the street, give them bigger guns. What does our federal government want to do? Mandatory minimums are the answer! Of course, it's all just so fucking simple.

If I saw Nancy Regan on the street, I'd punch her in the throat.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:32 AM on February 16, 2008 [4 favorites]

I've always found it fascinating that he has these books that are very much aimed at independent travelers, and then at the same time he runs a high-end tour business that appeals to people who just aren't that independent. The people who like the idea of the book, but just want to pay someone to do it for them. 8000 of them per year, according to the article. Yikes.

Don't get me wrong, I do really like the books. I use them whenever I can, and wish he would cover more than just Europe. Most tour guides just suck. Especially in this internet age. Why would I look for hotel or hostel reviews in a tour guide when I can see a review from last week by a real person on tripadvisor or hostelworld?
posted by smackfu at 8:37 AM on February 16, 2008

Maybe someday our elected officials will realize that Prohibition 2.0 has also been a disaster. If not, perhaps they should be UN-elected.

Oh, hell no! I don't want those creeps in the UN!
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:45 AM on February 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have to look again at his travel videos for Amersterdam. Maybe there is more there than I first thought. A little reading between the lines might reveal some new attractions.
posted by jonjacobmoon at 8:47 AM on February 16, 2008

Don't get me wrong, I do really like the books.

And you put your weed in them!
posted by dw at 8:49 AM on February 16, 2008

More than China, even, which has four times the population and a heavy-handed freedom-restricting government.

According to this article, in 2005 there were ~3700 executions in the world; ~3400 were done by China.

The US? 59.
posted by dw at 9:01 AM on February 16, 2008

As annoyed as I get by people making wrong assumptions about me based on my appearance, I never seem to stop doing it myself. Boy was I wrong. Also, it's going to be really fun to pull out this little factoid the next time Rick's on the teevee at my in-laws'!
posted by Enroute at 9:44 AM on February 16, 2008

very awesome, i would never have expected support for drug reform from Rick. but the article is incredibly light on details. all it says is that he's establishing a partnership with the ACLU, and they hope to get ads "on television and the internet." umm, ok. any more to it than that?

if that IS all, i'm not sure how effective it will be. but maybe i'm wrong, and if the public perception can be shifted, reform will come quicker... but it seems to me that lobbying our legislators and/or introducing ballot measures would yield more success. i hope i'm wrong, because the sane side of the drug debate haven't really had a hard-to-marginalize celebrity supporter in a while.
posted by acid freaking on the kitty at 9:59 AM on February 16, 2008

AFOTK: Here is more information on the project.
posted by Kibbutz at 10:07 AM on February 16, 2008

[expletive deleted] wrote: If I saw Nancy Regan on the street, I'd punch her in the throat.

And you'd be shocked(!) when you realized that you meant to punch Nancy Reagan. Poor Nancy Regan, where ever she is, always being confused with the Queen Bitch. ;)

acid freaking... Lobbying and ballot measures have been going on for years, and things have only gotten worse. Perhaps it's time to spend more effort countering the ridiculous ideas the Office of National Drug Control Policy is pushing on the unsuspecting public. Of course, as long as the current policy benefits the military and the defense contractors, don't expect to see it change on the federal level, no matter how opposed to it the public becomes.

We spend far too much money locking up nonviolent "criminals," which again, benefits much the same people as the interdiction efforts.
posted by wierdo at 10:12 AM on February 16, 2008

I only know Rick Steves because he has a book called "Europe Through the Back Door". I wasn't sure if the title was intentionally supposed to sound like a porn movie or not.
posted by puke & cry at 10:30 AM on February 16, 2008

If you read Rick Steve's Guide to Amsterdam, Bruges and Brussels, he makes it explicit right in his travel guide that he is pro Drug Reform. He even reviews some of the "coffee shops".

Whether you agree with Rick Steves politics, his travel guides are absolutely the best. Especially the Hotel/B and B suggestions and Double Plus Especially the walking tours. He's helped my wife and me have some amazing vacations and he's saved me lots of money by directing me around tourist traps.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:37 AM on February 16, 2008

Rick Steves is awesome. I knew about his pro-pot activism before I got into his travel shows. What's so amazing is that never once, on camera, does he break character. He is 100% American Dork and he knows his audience -- white bread, slightly xenophobic midwesterners. I actually think it's pretty admirable to make it your life's mission to gently show these people that they *can* travel and meet new people, they don't have to do it on a cruise ship or a tour bus, and that it's rewarding and fun and safe. When I watch him, I sometimes imagine him as hippie pothead at home and instead of becoming an object of creepy scorn, he seems more like a zen master who has found his place in life, a la Fred Rogers.

I also have to say, for Europe, Rick Steves' tour books are *the best,* especially his walking tours.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:39 AM on February 16, 2008

I remember reading a paragraph in one of the Rick Steves books in which he encourages the reader to not worry about the language difference while traveling and that you can often have conversations with people without knowing their language. He then goes on to describe such a conversation with an Italian guy he one had in the streets of Rome or some such place:

"Pepperoni!" Rick says.
"Bill Clinton," replies the Italian guy.
"Portobello." Rick responds.

So, pro drug reform huh? I can see that.
posted by Staggering Jack at 10:45 AM on February 16, 2008

A while back Rick Steves was interviewed about his political views (marijuana, health care, economics) on the KCTS Connects show on the PBS station in Seattle. This video is 19 minutes and 10 seconds long and it’s in Real Player format. The section on marijuana law starts about 12 minutes in.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 11:51 AM on February 16, 2008

Rick was the one who suggested which Amsterdam "coffee shop" we should visit there. It was a good suggestion....I seem to remember.
posted by bigskyguy at 12:16 PM on February 16, 2008

I am not getting high with Rick Steves.
posted by LarryC at 1:04 PM on February 16, 2008

I've always had an odd affection for the man. He always reminded me of my high school math/computer teachers somehow. I'd love to travel with this dude.
posted by afx114 at 1:48 PM on February 16, 2008

Rick Steves also has an awesome rap song.
posted by nitsuj at 3:31 PM on February 16, 2008

You know, until an episode where Rick took his wife and kids along, I totally had him pegged as playing for the other team, due to his voice, which is very Lyle.

I know that makes me a bad person. But the fact that he wrote a travel book titled Europe Through the Back Door still makes me giggle every time.

Good on him for his activism; he seems like a nice guy.
posted by emjaybee at 7:11 PM on February 16, 2008

I used to work for a public TV station as the assistant to the Director of Programming and talked to Rick Steves on many occasions. He was always, always a total prick to me. Man I dreaded his calls. Just imagin that voice not as the happy travel guy, but mad at you because he can't talk to your boss. I think his products are great, and it sounds like he's pretty cool in a lot of other ways, but seriously, when I hear his voice my first thought is always, Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 5:46 AM on February 17, 2008

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