Although it rarely shows up in those snappy chamber of commerce mailers, San Diego is widely recognized as a true industry leader in the field of buzz acquisition and distribution.
For evidence, note the way our little burg quickly developed into one of the world's leading capitals for crystal meth, a sleazy drug that turns people into buzzed zombies with a yen for fast food.
Meanwhile 'roid monsters with rapidly shriveling dicks cruise the vitamin stores of Mission Beach searching for new muscle enhancing products and "queers" to beat up.
And legions of caffeine-riddled soccer moms and manic-depressive failed journalists eagerly fork over $3 for their twice-daily latte fix.
In many ways, San Diego is the perfect corporate home for Metabolife, which is once again denying charges that its key product is killing people.
In a city where people crave the buzz, Metabolife fits right in. In fact, founder Michael Ellis is a true San Diego success story. A former cop, Ellis pulled himself up from the great unwashed with what law enforcement officials described as a thriving little crystal meth business. When he found the police unappreciative of his entrepreneurial zeal in the crystal meth industry, he shifted his business model to products based on a legal herb named ephedra, which offers a buzz falling somewhere between a strong cup of coffee and crack.
Ellis apparently learned quite a bit about consumer tastes during his early days dealing with obsessive meth freaks, especially the consumers' willingness to happily suck down shooters of rat poison for a chance to drop 10 pounds.
Like a true chamber of commerce poster child, Ellis used ephedra to tap into the vast market of weight-obsessed Days of Our Lives addicts, overweight offensive tackles and model-actress-waitresses who are no longer satisfied with the trimming effects of liposuction.
And, gosh darn, Metabolife would be a true heartwarmin' feel-good tale if not for the persistent accusations that ephedra might help kill folks.
Metabolife's crack team of highly paid public relations professionals will gladly explain that studies have been, at worst, inconclusive. Judging by Metabolife's public comments, based on the available science, for all we know, ephedra is just a sweet herb that may, in fact, promote literacy in chimps.
The big phrase in the Metabolife camp is "use as directed," making it very clear that any guy who took enough ephedra to blow up his heart clearly didn't read the label very closely.
In fact, the typical Metabolife warning label, which runs a whopping 200-plus words, states very clearly that "exceeding recommended serving may cause serious adverse health effects including heart attack and stroke."
And that's good enough for San Diego.
Even after Ellis' background in the crystal meth trade was made public, corporate San Diego gave Metabolife a nice, wet smoochy, proving that it takes more than a few meth labs and accusations that your product is killing people to turn off San Diego's money-grubbing crowd, especially if you have a few million bucks in ready cash to toss around.
Metabolife's main product may be getting a bad rap, in regards to those alleged deaths, but the company is regarded as a fine corporate "partner." Listed as a "gold member" by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Metabolife eagerly touts its alliance with the American Cancer Society, Arthritis Foundation, the Boy Scouts of America and a dozen other local charities, which are eager to suck on the teat of a respected diet pill manufacturer.
But it's getting pretty tough for Metabolife's local "partners" to ignore this little flap over ephedra, what with all the lawsuits and grieving relatives.
Clearly, the time of reckoning for Metabolife is at hand. The FDA may ban it. Congress is holding hearings. Things are looking bad for the Metabolife boys, who opted to plead the Fifth before a Congressional committee.
Metabolife has spent millions preparing for this day, greasing politicians and paying lobbyists to portray the ephedra industry as a bunch of innocent herb distributors.
But Congress is going to have to do something, or, at the very least, act like it's doing something.
Ultimately, this is likely to go one of two ways, and Metabolife knows it. Either Congress will decide ephedra is a bad buzz and should be banned and forced from the shelves for the good of all mankind, or they'll decide ephedra is very bad-and address the issue by insisting on really nasty warning labels.
The Metabolife folks can live with a stern warning label. History has shown that folks are more than willing to consume massive amounts of things that might kill them. You could put a picture of a grotesque black lung on every pack of cigarettes and puffers would still smoke.
Congress has always shown a willingness to let a potentially deadly product slide-just ask the gun industry-especially if those well-financed lobbyists offer up a few of those yummy shrimp rolls.
As far as Metabolife is concerned, it's a roll of the dice. If the worst happens and ephedra is banned, there's always another metabolism-quickening herb out there. They know a little government regulation won't stop the juiced football player or pudgy schoolteacher from jonesing for a new buzz to help drop those nasty love handles.
The only losers would be all those San Diego charities, corporate leaders and politicians who might find it a tad embarrassing to take all that cash from a company branded as an evil ephedra pusher.