Mar. 18, 2002: Here is some late-breaking news you won’t read anywhere else.

After hours of exhaustive analysis by my crack research department, staffed by the same person who writes this column and after intensive scientific polling, which consisted of asking the woman who shares my name if she agreed with me, I am proud to announce that the State of Georgia has been identified as the finest place on earth to live. Tied for second were the other 49 states and Scotland. Third place went to everyplace else on earth, except France, which whines too much and was automatically disqualified.

Maybe now you will realize how fortunate you are to call Georgia home. You could be living up north where it snows ten months a year or out in California where they have to schedule electrical blackouts, mudslides and earthquakes on alternate days just to get them all in.

Consider all our state has to offer: Mountains. Seashore. Good weather. Good roads. Good people. The Masters. NASCAR races. Lake Lanier. The Exquisite Little Georgia Sea Grill on St. Simons Island. Julia Roberts. Peanuts and Peaches. Our cup runneth over.

Yeah, I know we also have ice hockey, Ted Turner and natural gas deregulation, but nobody is perfect, okay?

Georgia’s finest attribute, however, is our official state song, “Georgia On My Mind.” No other state has a song that’s even close. Not only is it the world’s greatest song, it is sung by the world’s greatest singer, Ray Charles, who just happens to be from Albany. Are we on a roll or what?

But the alarm bells are ringing. A columnist in Atlanta doesn’t think “Georgia On My Mind” is an appropriate marketing slogan for our state. Not appropriate? We are identified with the world’s greatest song and it is not appropriate? What is it with newspaper columnists who think they know everything and have to tell you, whether you want to hear it or not? (Present company excluded, of course.)

She thinks “Georgia Loves You” would be a better line to sell people on coming to Georgia. Oh, please. Not only does that put me to sleep, but also it would be downright dishonest. Georgia doesn’t love everybody. Not by a long shot. For example, we don’t love Osama bin Laden. Imagine bin Laden curled up in a fetal position in some stinking cave in Afghanistan saying, “I made a boo-boo last September and now everybody is mad at me. I am going to Georgia because Georgia loves me.” See what a mistake that would be?

Had the columnist done the kind of in-depth research as your intrepid servant, she would have quickly discovered “Georgia Loves You” is a very bad idea. What if Al Sharpton thought we loved him and decided to move here? Or Madonna? Or Dennis Rodman? Or Alec Baldwin? Are these the kind of people we want running around loose in our state?

Not only would she have the state adopt “Georgia Loves You”, but she suggests that all our cities use that same line, too. Of course, being headquartered in Atlanta she probably can’t name three other cities in the state because people in Atlanta don’t know there are three other cities in the state. But even Sheila, the family Wonder Dog, would have a hard time swallowing “Ludowici Loves You” or “Ty Ty Loves You.” I know folks in both places and they would be very uncomfortable hearing talk like that. People are likely to think they are a bunch of Rosie O’Donnells and avoid them, which could damage tourism and hurt their chances of landing a major league baseball franchise.

Our politicians tend to forget who elected them and it is not the Atlanta media. The next time you see your local representatives — assuming the Legislature ever runs out of busy work and goes home — remind them that they are going to miss a lot of free lobbyist dinners in the future because they won’t be going back to the Gold Dome if you catch them messing with either Ray Charles or “Georgia On My Mind.” Tell them you don’t want to give Al Sharpton the idea Georgia loves him. You don’t want to go deer hunting and have folks say, “Aren’t you from that town where all that lovey-dovey stuff goes on?” Remind them that if we happen to say “Georgia Loves You,” we are talking only about Ray Charles – especially when he sings “Georgia On My Mind.”