A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeye's fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from March 22, 2010
“When in charge, ponder; When in trouble, delegate; When in doubt, mumble”

James Harlan Boren was amused by government bureaucracy and fromed the National Association of Pofessional Bureaucrats (NATAPROBU). The organization’s coat of arms was a duck snarled in red tape.

NATAPROBU (according to an August 1970 Associated Press article) had three philosophical laws: (1) When in charge, ponder; (2) When in rouble, delegate; and (3) When in doubt, mumble. These were further explained in Boren’s 1972 book, When in Doubt, Mumble: A Bureaucrat’s Handbook.

Google News Archive
24 August 1970, The Day (New London, CT), “‘When in Doubt, Mumble’—Bureaucrat Slogan” by Gordon Brown, pg. 6, col. 1:
WASHINGTON (AP)—Bothered by progress and understanding? The National Association of Professional Bureaucrats stands ready to help get you back to a confused and furious standstill.
With its motto “when in doubt, mumble” and its coat of arms a rampant duck snarled in red tape, NATAPROBU now boasts some 300 members and claims an international division.
The organization motto comes from the guidelines enunciated by James H. Boren, founder, president and chairman of the board for the association.

These guidelines, which all bureaucratic members are required to memorize, are: “when in charge, ponder; when in trouble, delegate; when in doubt, mumble.”

Time magazine
Modern Living: Maximizing NATAPROBU
Monday, Nov. 23, 1970
Most Americans have learned to coexist with the inefficiencies and jargon of bureaucracy, accepting them with sullen resignation. Not so James Boren, president of NATAPROBU (for National Association of Professional Bureaucrats), a mischievous group organized to reform bureaucracy by lampooning it. Last week, at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., designed to demonstrate the bureaucratic characteristic of “dynamic inactivism,” Boren belatedly named Sandra Summers, a Pentagon secretary, as “Miss Bureaucrat 1969.”

Boren’s Three Laws sum up NATAPROBU’s philosophy: 1) When in charge, ponder; 2) When in trouble, delegate; and 3) When in doubt, mumble.

Google Books
When in Doubt, Mumble;
A Bureaucrat’s Handbook

By James H. Boren
New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.
Pg. 132:
When in charge, ponder.When in trouble, delegate. When in doubt, mumble.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Military/Religion /Health • (0) Comments • Monday, March 22, 2010 • Permalink