What is a good resource to learn about options trading strategies?
Options are a quite advanced investment form, and you'd do well to learn a lot about them before attempting to dive into this fairly illiquid market. Yale's online course in financial markets covers the Options Market and is a good starting point to make sure you've got all the basics. You may be familiar with most of it, but it's a decent refresher on lingo and Black-Scholes.
How can I use options to establish some cash flow from long standing investments while minimizing capital gains expenses?
This question seems designed to get people to talk about covered calls. Essentially, you sell call contracts: you let people buy things you already have at a price in the future, at their whim. They pay you for this option, though usually not much if the options aren't in the money. You can think of this as trading any return above the call option for a bit of extra cash.
I don't invest with taxable accounts, but there are significant tax consequences for options. Because they expire, there will be turnover in your portfolio, and up front income when you take the sell side. So if you trade in options with close expiration dates, you'll probably end up with a lot of short-term capital gains, which are treated as normal income. One strategy is to trade in broad-based stock index options, which have favorable tax treatments. Some people have abused this though to disguise normal income as capital gains, so it could go away.
Obviously the easy approach is to just use a tax advantaged account for options trading. An ETF might also be able to handle the turnover on your behalf, for example VIX is a series of options on S&P500 options.
A second strategy I've heard of is buying calls and puts at a given strike price. For example, if you bought Dec '13 calls and puts on SPX @ 115 today, it would cost you about $35 dollars. If the price moves more than 35 dollars away from 115 by DEC '13 (in either direction), you've made a profit. If you reflect on that for a bit, you'll see why VIX is considered a volatility index.
I guess I should mention that shorting a stock and buying a put option at the market price are very similar, with the exception that your loss is limited to the price of the option.
Is there ever an instance where options investing is not speculative?
The term 'speculative' is not well defined. For many people, the answer is no. It's very easy to just buy put options and wait for prices to fall, or call options and wait for prices to rise. Moreover, the second strategy above essentially gives you similar performance to a stock without paying full price. These all fall under the headline of increasing a risk portfolio rather than decreasing it, which I figure is a decent definition of speculation.
On the other hand, there are ways to use options minimize risk rather than increase it. You can buy underwater options as portfolio insurance, if your portfolio drops below a certain amount, you still have the right to sell it at a higher one. And the Case-Schiller index is run in part, on the hopes that one day there might be a thriving market for real estate options (or futures). When you buy a home or lend money to someone to buy one, you could buy regional Case-Schiller options to protect you if the regional market tanks. But in all of these cases, it's required for someone else to take the opposite trade. Risk isn't reduced, it's traded around. So technically, there is a speculative element to these as well.
I think the proper question here is whether speculation is present, but whether speculation can be put to good ends. Without speculators, the already very thin market for options would shrivel faster.