The Options & Spreads article that follows has been written by an expert who trades successfully for a living. He also offers a course on trading Options & Spreads. For more info on the course click here.

The following article is very educational, informative and well-written.

OPTIONS & SPREADS - The Biggest Difference in the World, or, Profiting off of Cannibalism & Quicksand

Chamfort wrote, "Bachelors' wives and old maids' children are always perfect." Sure. For sports fishermen, the one that got away is always huge. The book that the would-be author plans to write but never does--always a literary masterpiece. The architectural blueprint that never left the drawer "would have been" another Taj Mahal.

We arrive at traders' millions, the strongbox that should have come on the noon stagecoach. That stock should have been the new Resorts International. Skyscrapers were supposed to replace the weeds on that real estate tract. Why does cash not cascade in from the chain letter or pyramid scheme? Those "newly-minted collectible" coins have dropped 40% on the resale market.

Stock options. Futures contracts. Futures options. Count & horbar; less thousands of traders read yachting magazines hopefully and cry in their lager on dry land afterward. On the sea of dreams, the bachelor's wife and the spinster's child ride the trader's brigantine. Take a lesson from the checkerboard in the sea chest. If you ever tried that old experiment, you did not get far.

You place one penny on the first square of the checkerboard, two cents on the second, four on the third and keep doubling. The surprise is that the figures become astronomical rather quickly. You pass the thousand-dollar mark on the 18th square, the million-dollar mark on the 28th square, the billion-dollar on the 38th, and so on through trillion and quadrillion.

"What has this to do with financial trading?” you ask. Plenty. Becoming wealthy should be the easiest thing in the world when you consider that a thousand dollars has to double only 10 times to be & horbar; come a million. No flight to the moon, just 10 squares on the checkerboard. Yet how many have done it?

Dalton's Bookstore near Wall Street has an array of tall book & horbar; cases, shelves and shelves allegedly telling you how to increase and re-increase your money. Yet how many venturers who started out with more than a thousand dollars have managed to traverse those 10 simple squares? Plenty of brilliant minds, ideas, degrees in engineering and physics, micro-chip aids, voluminous charts and mathematics. Yet practically everybody falls into abysses between red and black squares. Private Fort Knox’s remain dusty blueprints.

Since stock options, futures and futures options are zero sum games, Peter perpetually plunders Paul and the reverse. Someone must lose a dollar for every person who gains a dollar; one pocket must be picked for every pocket that bulges. Financial reality must shoot a thousand traders to deliver a profit to another thou & horbar; sand. About half the winning thousand face the firing squad next time.

Andrew Tobias told of people he knew who made a bundle buying a batch of options or "playing them long," then lost it all trying to repeat that success. If you have a 50-50 chance of winning and not losing once, you have only one chance in four of doing it twice in a row, and just one in eight of three consecutive wins. Thus the third try is Russian roulette with seven of eight chambers loaded. 10 doublings in a row increase the money a thousand-fold but you have only one chance in a thousand of doing it 10 times in a row.

Think of brokerage commissions as a sad story riding the coat & horbar; tails of another sad story. If you keep repeatedly tossing a silver dollar, it will come up heads approximately half the time and tails approximately half. Venture money on it and losses will approximately cancel out wins. Now imagine brokerage commissions chopping a nickel or half-nickel off the silver dollar on each toss. Will the game last long?

Commodities that underlie futures contracts can only go up or down. Stocks and futures that underlie options can only go up or down. Heads or tails. With options, 50-50 odds are too generous an estimate because time-decay eats up their value in bigger and bigger bites as the calendar progresses. Also, commissions make the zero sum game a minus sum game.

All this helps to explain how "zero sum" and "minus sum" shoot and rob traders, why every barfly is not a millionaire, and how come crying towels far outnumber limousines. The double doors at which all this arrives are what I call The Biggest Difference In The World: The Difference between winning once and winning with anything resembling consistency. Practically every speculative trader and horse & horbar; player has done the former. Those who have done the latter are slightly more numerous than blue-coat survivors at Little Big Horn.

I took up option spreads because they contained that consistency. Not risk-free, not instant millions, but repeat profits in the manner of a successful business enterprise. Spreading does re & horbar; quire a certain psychology or mind-set. It is too venturesome for financial conservatives such as bond investors or buy-‘em-and- hold- ‘em-for-years stock investors. Yet it is too conservative for crap-shoot speculators who pursue what promises vast wealth and de & horbar; livers a massacre.

That happy medium between those two intransigencies is business, profitable enterprise. I am used to collecting markedly more gains in markedly less time than the coupon-clippers. I am also used to climbing over the corpses of speculative traders to gather my profits. I am also used to the month-after-month returns of a landlord or a kitchen appliances dealer or a gems-in-a-satchel entrepreneur. Business constitutes the middle ground west of the bond coupon and east of the paper dice, and I discovered it with spreads.

In the previous issue of CTCN, I wrote of opening a "horizon & horbar; tal calendar" spread position with Wal-Mart put options. "Horizontal" meant that the batch of options bought and the batch sold had the same strike-price. "Calendar" meant that the two batches each had a different expiration month. In this type of spread, one buys far-in-time options and sells near-in-time ones. The near & horbar; -in-time ones are worth fewer dollars because of less time-value.

The price difference between these two batches is a debit or minus-figure, which the trader pays out of his capital. In other words, that difference forms the “spread,” the gap which his money fills in. In this instance, I bought 10 Wal-Mart put options with an expiration date of June and a strike-price of 90, purchased them at a price of 4¼ points -- $425 for each or $4,250 for 10. I sold 10 other Wal-Mart put options with the same strike-price of 90 but a nearer-in-time expiration date of May. My selling price: 3 points or $300 each, 10 for $3,000.

The $3,000 I took in from the sale of the Mays paid for most of the $4,250 cost of the Junes I bought. In the trader's broker―age account, the money received from the sell is automatically credited toward the cost of the buy when both transactions are executed on the same day, as is customary with option spreads. My investment capital paid the difference between or "filled in the gap between" these two figures -- the "spread" of $1,250 -- plus discount brokerage commissions.

Less than seven weeks later, an investment of approximately $1,400 with commissions brought an after-commissions profit of $460. Nearly a 33% gain annualizing to over 230%. A small negative -- it took longer than usual since as a spread strategist I tend to think in terms of three to five weeks. Yet bond investors are satisfied to wait far longer for far less. Many I'm―-in-a-hurry futures and options players are too badly shot up to look at clock or calendar.

Icebergs test navigator and helmsman. Three investment specialists have left George Soros' group of managed funds to form their own company due to multiple "disappointing results" plaguing their former boss lately. Mario Gabelli of Gabelli Asset Management was razzed recently according to the Wall Street Journal (May 25, 1999) for "creative accounting" in issuing a quarterly earnings report that camouflaged the bottom line -- a 17.9 million dollar loss. Non―giant though I am, I know I am doing something right when red ink splashes on their boats but not mine.

Can an independent trader surpass the big boys? I have not found it all that difficult. Nor does it require formulae abstracted from physics or engineering or cyber-science. As with many one-―person businesses, the foundational game-plan is not complicated and can be etched on a hard boilerplate: Do a horizontal calendar spread, buying the far-in-time options and selling the near-in-time ones. Secondly, be sure that the near-in-time sold options have a market value of at least 3 points and preferably more. Finally, be sure that the "spread" or gap between the bought and the sold is less than 1½ points -- as much less as possible.

Look to the already-described Wal-Mart put spread as an example. The nearer-in-time Mays were sold for 3 and the farther-in―-time Junes were bought for 4¼. What if the Mays traded for 2½ and the Junes for 3¾? The spread between them is still 1¼, less than 1½ and okay. However, the value of the near-in-time options is only 2½, below the minimum of 3. What if May traded for 3¼ and June for 5¼? The near-in-time now meets the requirement but the spread or gap stands at 2 points, certainly in excess of the mandatory "less than 1½." No deal.

A couple of solid second-tier rules. Look beyond the expiration date immediately ahead for both ends of the spread. At the time of this writing (June 2, 1999) the June options scheduled to expire later this month are scrawny and depressed in value due to advanced time-decay. Almost no, 3-pointers among the out-of-the-―money puts & calls. More like ¾of a point or 1¼ point. The months beyond that are meatier and offer the possibilities, like selling Julys and buying Augusts.

Another rule: Patience. Although I took profit a couple of weeks ago on May 17, I have not yet launched another spread position. This is because I have not yet found a situation that meets my already-stated criteria -- the 3 points or better near-in-time, the gap of less than 1½. Lack of August options in many stocks is causing an impediment. Nevertheless, I shall not plunge in again until my requirements are met.

Patience may sound like a difficult tenet to preach in the realm of speculative trading. Speed means so much here, the quest for rapid profits as opposed to 10-year debentures. It could even be said that trading is impatience in work clothes, or impatience with guns mounted or whatever. Still, smart trading demands good timing, and good timing often requires patience.

One of Aesop's most famous fables may be played both ways timing-wise. With over a 30% profit in less than seven weeks, I the spread strategist could be the hare in contrast to the tortoise bond investors and hold-them-for-years stock investors, respectively aiming for 5 or 6% and 10 or 20% annually. Yet everything being relative, I may count as the tortoise in contrast to the frenzied futures & options traders who expect to double and redouble their cash with jackrabbit speed. Better a profit-gathering turtle than a butchered bunny.

A lesser-known, sadder Aesop's fable comes to mind. A lion and a lamb both stopped to drink at a stream at points a short distance from each other. The lion said to the lamb, “How dare you muddy the water where I drink!” The lamb replied, "That cannot be. I am drinking downstream from you." Then the lion asked, "Why did you insult me a year ago?" The lamb responded, "That cannot be. I am only six months old." The predator declared, "If it was not you, then it was your brother. My wrath upon his whole clan!" Then he pounced on the crying lamb and devoured it.

The Moral of the Story: "Any excuse will suit a tyrant." Is anything more predatory than financial risk trading? Every joy is a sorrow to somebody else and vice-versa. You have to gore some―body's ox to fill your meat locker, while protecting your locker. Zero sum games produce nothing. A pocket picked, another pocket filled. The lamb's loss, the lion's gain. Those who bought the near-in-time options I sold, and those who bought far-in-time options identical to mine but without spreading, usually went through the meat grinder. As a spreader, I collected mutton and wool.

He who buys stock shares anticipates their doing well. Who―ever sells them expects otherwise. One of them has to be wrong. Occasionally long-players in stocks "squeeze" short-sellers, a merciless laughter house maneuver. Short-sellers are often branded "traitors" and "jinxers" for betting on shares to drop while most investors root for a rise. Yet Bank of Boston common shares have paid a cash dividend every year since 1784. The certificates fit nicely in granny's knitting basket until her grand kids inherit them.

Are stock options, futures contracts or futures options this warm-hearted? They fall within the category of "wasting assets,” meaning they have expiration dates and eventually become worthless. Stated more bluntly, they are gladiatorial. Profits or death. A horizontal calendar spreader handles only out-of-the-money options, the calls above the stock price or the puts under it. Over 90% of all out-of-the-money options expire worthless. What sterile terminology calls "high turn-over rates" among futures and options players financially resembles “high turn-over rates” among small-shield combatants in the Roman-arena.

Rob Peter. Pay Paul. Traders scurry around, trying to share in Paul's bounty and not Peter's bankruptcy. Half will fail. Half the successes will fail next time. "Et cetera" with blood dripping off it. I thank spread strategy for enabling my brokerage account to age gracefully and with full pockets in a die-young world. Both the longevity and the money belt can be attributed to that perennial pot-sweetener: Other people's cash.

In the example of the Wal-Mart puts, the $3,000 that other folks spent for the Mays I sold paid for most of the $4,250 worth of Junes I bought. My investment? $1,400 including commissions. A bottom line of $1,860 means a loss if you risked either of the first two amounts but a prime-cut rack of lamb profit if you ventured the third. The poker game carries risk and does not guarantee gains. Yet it is not too difficult to come out ahead repeatedly when you can buy 30 or 40 dollars worth of chips for 14 dollars. At the conclusion, 20 or 25-dollars wins -- with that discount.

Several months ago one CTCN subscriber, a young man in Hawaii, wrote to me and asked how I decided or chose between puts and calls. I replied that I looked to call options if the underlying stock was gradually rising and had a conservative price/earnings ratio, and puts if the shares gradually declined and had an inflated P/E. "How do you narrow the list of stocks?" he also asked. Quite easily.

Among out-of-the-money options having expiration dates within the next 3 or 4-months (June-July-August if it's late May, for example), relatively few trade at prices of 3 points or more. That eliminates something like 95%.

Among shares whose options do carry hefty near-in-time prices are some crazy large-swing stocks as opposed to gradual risers and decliners. No good. I would not touch Amazon or AOL options, for example. That eliminates several more. On whether to choose puts or calls, one other factor emerges in addition to a share's chart direction and P/E. Generally, put options with the same strike-prices but different months tend to have narrower gaps or spreads from month to month than calls.

Let us say that today is late September or the start of October. If you are considering a spread, your attention should be on November and December options in the newspaper's financial section. You look to calls with strike-prices more than five points above the underlying stock's price and puts with strike-prices more than five points below, to lessen the chance of a slight fluctuation in share price putting an option "in the money." You eliminate all the options selling for less than three points and all the options in insane- volatility zigzag stocks, high-priced though those options are.

Among the handful that remain, let us say that a stock fluctuates between 92 and 94 & a fraction. You would look at November and December call options with a strike-price of 100 and put options for those same months with a strike-price of 85. Often but not always, the spread or gap between the two calls of different months will be around 1¾ or 2 and between the two puts something like 1¼ or 1-3/8, i.e. a smaller difference. For example, November calls may trade at 3½, the December calls 5½, while the November puts trade at 3-1/8, the December puts 4-3/8. Investor optimism swells the upside (calls) and more so the farther-in-time upside. Since spreads of less than 1½ flash a green light when I drive, I steer toward puts a little more often than toward calls. Yet a stock's direction also figures crucially. A major rise in share price can hurt a put position and a major fall damage a call one.

Spread strategy means devouring option-playing lambs. It involves chopping chunks of silver off of other optioneers' coin- & horbar; tosses. Not guaranteed, it nevertheless produces profits regularly enough to be called a business. It certainly qualifies as a bus & horbar; iness more than do the activities of all the speculative trading would-be millionaires who play Russian roulette with seven of eight chambers loaded.

A trader's dream-profits multiply astronomically with the perfection of a bachelor's dream-wife and a spinster's dream-child. Perhaps I am the party-pooper for mentioning cellulite and measles, real business and realistic gains. Yet 30% hard wampum in a few weeks buys far more than 1,000% at the imaginary level and bankrupt teepee at the beads & shells reality level.

In past articles, I have shown curiosity re bad investments and scams and a fascination with investment history. You can emerge alive and profit-laden from a jungle diamond mine but what do you need to do so? A knowledge of gems and mining techniques, yes, but also knowledge of leopards and snakes, cannibals and quicksand. Otherwise you end up like countless other traders roasting over the financial coals. As for investment history, it is remarkable how slightly quicksand changes over the centuries.

One unsavory institution that proliferated in the late 1800s and early 1900s was the bucket shop. In these "investment companies,” no actual securities were bought or sold. They were gambling dens that used stock fluctuations as a basis for wagering. You bet against the house cashbox on whether a share price would rise or fall. They were so-called because your written order was "bucketed" or tossed in a receptacle rather than forwarded to an exchange.

Some bucket shops were one-or two-man storefront operations. Others resembled miniature stock exchanges, with ticker-tape machines and clerks writing share prices on chalkboards before rows of spectator seats. Typically, a customer put up "margin" of one% of a stock's price and could play it short or long. A fluctuation of a percent in one direction doubled his money, in the other direction wiped him out. Bucket shop owners occasionally manipulated prices behind the scene and sometimes disappeared with a satchel of cash between days, never to reappear.

A whole other era, you say? The Wall Street Journal for June 1, 1999 carried a piece headed "Some Day Traders, in a Shift of Focus, Look for a Profit in Foreign Currencies." Texas Securities Commissioner Denise Voight Crawford said, "This is one of those areas we advise Main Street investors to avoid completely." Yet growing numbers of day traders and Web traders are playing fast fluctuations in the Swiss franc, the Japanese yen and other currencies.

The next boom, some predict. According to the Journal "Discipline is crucial. At most sites, customer accounts are 100-times leveraged. That means if a currency moves just one percent in either direction, a customer's $1,000 investment in an open $100,000 position would either double or be wiped out." Again the old bucket shop arithmetic. Again the speculative silver dollar coin-toss with the commission broker cutting himself a chunk on each toss.

The Journal also quotes Midland Euro's director of operations Dennis Hannan on leveraged currency's lack of regulation: "You don't have the restrictions like other markets, but at the same time you have a lot of fraud, and it's giving reputable businesses a bad name.” Again the numbers juggler and fly-by-nighter with satchel. Do not expect new recipes at a cannibal banquet. Nor do venomous vipers change their methods much.

Recently, SEC chairman Arthur Levitt made statements faulting numerous on-line brokers for using "get rich quick" come-ons to lure potential investors who lack training and lack awareness of the risks in fast-at-the-keyboard trading. His remarks were prompted in part by those TV commercials showing a truck driver buying an island with his profits and a teenage Web investor owning a helicopter. What he said provoked a letter to New York Times editor from a Ms. Rosenberg.

In effect, she cheered that on-line brokering hailed a new era of stock market investing for the common man, not just the upper set anymore. I realized that her vision of the financial past was skewed, stereotypical and ho-hum about the hazards then and now. I fired off a written rebuttal. Subsequently the New York Times phoned me and said they wanted to use the piece. The woman assistant editor added, "You cite a book by William Worthington Fowler although you don't quote him directly. Could you Fax us a copy of that page as documentation for our files?"

I explained that I had borrowed that book from the New York University library and did not have it at hand right now. However, it was quoted verbatim in a financial newsletter I write for. Would a copy of that printed page be sufficient documentation? Fine, she replied. So I Faxed a copy of page 15 from Dave Green's CTCN, the May-June 1993-2014 issue. On 5-11-1999 the following appeared on page A-22 of the New York Times:

To the Editor:
Lori Aks Rosenberg (letter, May 7) writes that thanks to Internet trading, “the brokerages have finally eschewed snobbery and embraced the ordinary guy as a customer.” Her “olden days" image of the millionaire tycoon at the ticker & horbar; tape machine is only partly true.

Published in 1873, William Worthington Fowler's book "10 Years in Wall Street" told of the hard-sell efforts of stock promoters to push shaky oil and gold companies on working people. Investors would troop to brokerage offices on their lunch hours to collect dividends, only to hear that none existed. Brokers, stock promoters, mining and drilling executives all made plenty even if the ground yielded nothing.

Today, regardless of innovations in law or the World Wide Web, the hard sell continues to scream the profit potential while whispering the risk. Internet trading can be like having a bookmaker or a croupier in your living room. By Greg Donio

In 1873 as today, $1,000 had to double only 10 times to become that $1,000,000 figure. Then as now, abysses abounded between those red and black squares. Then as now, everyone claimed to be "at business" or "handling business capably” yet figuratively speaking many men tossed dice with palsied hands. Though written while Grant occupied the White House, Fowler's description of speculation fever in 10-Years in Wall Street could have been Cleveland or Coolidge or Clinton Era:

Gambling in stocks, after following a legitimate business, is like quaffing brandy after sipping claret. When once a man has fairly committed himself to speculation, his imagination soon grows to lend a hideous fascination to the objects of his pursuit. An evil genius seems to hold possession of him.

He takes no note of time, save as an interval between his gains and losses; the thrill of the one and the pain of the other, grow duller as the years wear away, until at length he becomes the opium eater of finance, living in a world peopled by phantoms which haunt his waking hours, and flit through his dreams. The unsubstantial pageant vanishes as the alarm bell of his ruin peals out, and he awakes to the desolation of reality.

Can you fit the phrase or notion "sound business practices" into the above? Fit it in anywhere even with a crowbar? Some things have changed over the centuries, such as whether a person invests via horse messenger, 1870s Western Union, telephone or the Internet. Yet a few things remain the same -- the zero sum game and the addict's "hideous fascination."

You may have heard those semantic labeling tricks: "I am firm. You are stubborn. He is pig-headed.” Or "I am a Renaissance Man. You are a jack-of-all-trades. He is having an identity crisis.” To these has been added a financial equivalent variously attributed: "I invest. You speculate. He gambles.” To fog the lens even more, everybody purports to be "doing business."

To trade as a business means -- as with a clothing store or a luggage shop or a radio station -- to gain with something resembling consistency, that Biggest Difference in the World. Spreading has enabled me to do precisely that. The reasons for the repeat profits are several; one being that spread strategy uses mostly quantities of other people's cash. This includes dupe's money, addict's money, untrained financial flier's money, easy-millions excessive optimist's money, and Web numbers-chaser's money. All-buy options.

Another reason is knowing what techniques to avoid. In an earlier era, the larger urban bucket shops had branches in mill towns where workers could hazard their pay. Wage-earners tied their brains in a knot searching out "causes” and “patterns" behind one & horbar; - percent twitches in both directions, and argued about it frequently over malt beer and moustache wax. Today, bars tools near bucket shops have been replaced by day trading centers and Internet "chat rooms" where any zodiac devotee can hand down guidance. What re & horbar; mains unchanged: The rapid emptying of pockets.

The Zero Sum Jungle. For every explorer who brings back ivory, another has to roast over a tribal fire. Also, the successful ivory-hunter's next expedition or foray is another question, a second heads-or-tails risk. For me, thankfully, spreading has meant repeat ivory and fewer burns. It also enables me to buy among other things some cultural artifact such as a bronze medallion or an Olde Coventry ale tankard or a ticket to the opera or an item of literature. The "old money" preferred more fine arts, few dice games.

I have a fondness for books brown with age. Anne Parrish's 1925 novel The Perennial Bachelor is set in the late 1800s. A swain pays a call on a young lady at her parents' town house (the opposite Of a-country estate) but arrives a bit too early:

He had never seen such a grand parlor. The high sky-blue ceiling was painted with clouds and cupids, and from it hung gas globes like giants' egg-cups, with the profiles of Roman emperors clear on the ground glass. Long mirrors reflected over and over again the fire screen of terra-cotta silk embroidered with bulrushes, the marble lady looking down at a butterfly perched on her shoulder, Mrs. Hawthorn's violet draperies, and his own best gray suit and flaming face.

Would it be all right to go now? He didn't know how late you could get supper at the hotel, and he felt as if he had been sitting there for hours. There was a clock on the mantelpiece, but it was so fancy, its hands were such delicate traceries of golden frost-work against a golden moon of background that he couldn't read it at all.

After he left without seeing her, Lucy, rosy with sleep, came trailing down, wrapped in a dressing gown of pale blue silk trimmed with swans down, like fluffy white clouds in a summer sky, and helped herself to a glace pear from a dish on table.

“Your rustic admirer has been here," said her mother. Roman emperor, ornate clocks and crystals, the tendency to see the classical naiad in a woman, these would not be bad additions to the mind-sets of many people involved in finance. As already indicated, many old-time investors were not carriage-trade classicists. Yet the stereotype deserves preserving and remains worth aspiring to, when you see what is happening without it.

In Italy in 1895, the great tenor Enrico Caruso made his operatic debut in Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana. He played the role of Turiddu, the seducer and adulterer with the busiest roll of salami in all of Sicily. At the opera's conclusion, the character meets fatal justice via the old one-two-a jealous husband and a sharp knife. Old music was not all "Stardust" or “Sweet Rosie O’Grady” but even the financial newspapers seem to forget that some & horbar; times. Anything darker than Rodgers & Hammerstein? Cultural poison!

After the Colorado school shootings, millions of people blamed “the culture” -- the movies, video games, rock and rap songs to which young people are subjected. Yet it may surprise many that the vehement denouncers of rock & roll are, with few exceptions, not lovers of grand opera or symphony. They are people whose "dawn of time" was Tin Pan Alley moonlight and roses. The "nicer times" they want to bring back are canned grape juice, not vintage Mozart or Verdi. Their cotton-candy taste buds gag on new hash or old venison.

In past articles, I have critiqued Right Wing reactionaries whose "good old days" map stops at Shirley Temple and who are offended by anything stronger than the song "Good Ship Lollipop.” I have vented Italian anger at self-declared "traditionalists" who think Bernini and Tintoretto shared a jail cell with Vito Genovese. Now as if adding a slapstick, millions of people never before heard to utter the word "culture" now blame everything on “the culture" that uses not Spanky and Alfalfa as compass points.

Why did I mention the financial newspapers a moment ago? In the Wall Street Journal for May 21, 1999, the middle of the front pages goes to Dan Qayle's presidential campaign. He is your man if your “dawn of civilization stretches back to Roy Rogers never kissing Dale Evans on-screen because he was a role-model for kids, or the Lone Ranger never shooting to kill. Yet that piece was not the issue's reactionary high point.

That issue's next-to-last page was the Friday “Tastes” page - & horbar; frequently a soap-box for the religious Right. Super model Cindy Crawford appears nude while pregnant on the cover of W Magazine on display at thousands of newsstands across the nation -- actually a half-shadow near-nude. Wendy Shalt, author of the book A Return to Modesty, disapproved of this on the Journal's May 21 “Tastes” page. Her article denounced "the cultural messages" of "promiscuity and exhibitionism" and stated "there is good reason to protect the private realm and keep sex sacred" because "you want to reveal yourself only to one who loves you."

No, that issue of the Wall Street Journal does not contain any pieces on Italian Renaissance artworks by Titi an or Craggier -- the Dian as and Led as and Aphrodisia who bared more than Cindy did. Nor is there anything on the mogul art collections of J.P. Morgan or Henry Clay Brick. While people shout "culture" and "tradition," values based on Debbie Reynolds movies over layer the art treasures, even in that non-grandmotherly publication.

On one wall in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Roman hunter-goddess Diana is clad in only a bowstring. Beside her hangs a graphic and colorful painting of John the Baptist's severed head on a silver platter. As far as is known, viewing that painting has not caused anyone to chop off people's heads. Nor did Crusoe's arias provoke seductions or stabbings. Please cultivate within yourself a golden tracery of Morgan or Brick, regarding both “the profits and "the culture."

Also, when I you hear other traders remark, “I'm a businessman, not a gambler," make sure that description fits you although it probably does not fit them. Increase your gains while their holdings sink between the red and black squares.

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