If any country should celebrate a contrarian streak, it's America.

As we observe Independence Day -- is anybody actually reading today? -- this holiday week's Financial Education column will highlight our running series on contrarian investing, the ultimate expression of market independence.

Contrarian investing -- buying the stuff that everybody hates, or betting against the stuff that everybody loves -- is one of the best ways to aim for performance-enhancing returns. There are a million ways to go against the herd, and today's package of stories highlights some of the best bets these days:

Short Selling: Do Amazon ( AMZN), eBay ( EBAY) and Yahoo! ( YHOO) look frothy to you? If you know the risks, short-selling can be a profitable venture. This recent column offers a primer on how to sell a stock short. (Back in the old days in France, Napoleon banned short-selling as treasonous behavior -- that would never happen in America!)

Dogs of the Dow: Investors looking for a contrarian investment strategy tailor-made to benefit from the recent dividend tax cut, the Dow 10, or Dogs of the Dow, is a good place to start. Check out this recent column for details on how an oldie-but-goodie strategy makes darlings out of dogs like Altria ( MO).

Japan: You heard me. A growing number of savvy investors are suggesting it's finally time to take a look at the country that has been in a 13-year death spiral. This recent column offers a few mutual funds that are worthy candidates for the investor willing to take the plunge.

Gold: The precious metal has been on a bear-market tear during the past three years -- after a two-decade funk -- and some investors think it may still have more upside. Investors interested in the metal's prospects should check out this recent column .

True Contrarians: Lots of investors lay claim to being contrarians these days. To get a sense of what contrarian investing truly means these days, we got the straight story from three genuine articles: Marc Faber, Tom McManus and David Dreman. While they contradicted each other a bit -- natch -- there were some common themes. Click here to see what these contrarians like and dislike.

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