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Chef CEO Defends Contract with ICE (chef.io)
69 points by mbbennis 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 107 comments

Terrible response, companies totally can pick and choose who they work with and who their customers are.

> I want to be clear that this decision is not about contract value — it is about maintaining a consistent and fair business approach in these volatile times.

Doublespeak for, this decision is 100% about contract value.

I am interested more in the former employee that removed the ruby gem though. Cool form of protest IMO.

Calling that a terrible answer is a little extreme. It's a really complicated issue and I'd be lying if I said I had the answer to it. Would you agree that religious fundamentalists should have the right to deny services to people they find morally objectionable? Should a medical service provider deny LGBTQ people vital services because they "morally" object to it? Obviously not. What if landing a contract like this is the only way to keep the business financially afloat? Laying off employees also has moral implications. Should we single out this company when major tech companies like Microsoft have contracts with ICE? Why aren't we boycotting MS over this?

Personally I don't agree with Chef's decision and sure as hell don't agree with ICE. Seriously, f*ck ICE. I'm descended from immigrants. It's a free country and anyone who thinks I shouldn't be here or any other immigrant for that matter is free to kiss my Irish ass. I just don't agree this is the way to change things. We should be fighting for what's right ourselves rather then admonishing someone else for not doing it for us but if we are going to admonish corporations for their associations with ICE, it should be all of them.

exactly, especially when the sentence before it mentions he worked with their executive team to make the decision.

This is entirely about money.

> former employee that removed the ruby gem

I hadn’t heard of this, do you have a link to that by chance?

Here is the developer's statement: https://github.com/sethvargo/chef-sugar

Article: https://www.zdnet.com/article/developer-takes-down-ruby-libr...

Note this is the same developer who left Chef in 2014 because he received death threats from their open source community.

For the record (if it matters) I am very pro-immigration and pro-immigrant rights, but I don't think denying chef services to ICE will actually do anything - let me explain.

Lets look at this from another perspective (couldn't hurt, right?). I am a company that sells paper.

Some companies might use this paper for very bad things (printing out patents?).

Do I comb through all my clients and determine what they are using the paper for? Doesn't seem to make sense, and worse yet, it seems like an entirely subjective process. Who says which companies are "good" and which are "bad" ?

When I stop selling paper to an entity, they will just find another paper provider. I have not really done anything meaningful aside from signalled my intentions, which I could do more effectively in other ways (lobbying, etc).

Paper is an interchangeable commodity with many suppliers. Specific software products often are not.

Furthermore, there's a difference between "someone bought this commodity from a distributor" and "we have a contract specifically with this entity".

If every paper company got together and denied service to ICE, then ICE would be forced to limp along without paper. They wouldn't cease to operate - even if they wanted to, they couldn't; that's not up to them. They would just operate inefficiently. It would be frustrating to the DHS officers, but actively detrimental to the immigrants in their custody, slowing things down even more. Unless you actually believe that immigration law shouldn't exist or be enforced, you should be happy to work with ICE to help them process detainees as quickly and efficiently as possible.

"If we don't sell to XYZ someone else will" is not an argument to keep selling to XYZ, unless you already agree with (or are indifferent to) XYZ and their activities.

"XYZ is doing bad things but it'd be even worse if they did bad things less efficiently" is not an argument to keep selling to XYZ, unless you already agree with (or are indifferent to) XYZ and their activities.

Making an organization less efficient, or otherwise slowing an organization down, is not going to single-handedly stop it, but that doesn't make it pointless or counterproductive.

For the concrete example here, you haven't provided evidence that "less efficient" or "slower" applies only (or disproportionately) to activities that stop hurting people rather than activities that hurt people.

Also, you've created a false dichotomy, dismissing the existence of people who agree with portions of a branch of law but disagree with how that law is enforced.

I agree, I think its not an apples-to-apples comparison, and that is slightly intentional. I want to highlight the same decision to be made under a less frictional commodity to ask the question: where does one draw the line on what they supply? There are some obvious lines probably. You would not want to be a gun manufacturer that sold guns directly to drug cartels, for example.

I think it's reasonable to say "this software is open and anyone can use it, and we don't control who downloads and runs it themselves".

I also think it's reasonable, given an entity you don't want to do business with, to say "we don't enter into contracts (even our standard contracts) with these entities, and we don't provide any kind of support to these entities".

I think that's reasonable -- but also the reverse is reasonable. "Company decides to continue working with US government" should not be news.

They don't have to look at the moral behavior of every person they work with, they just need to listen to their employees. The likelihood of employees being able to actually abuse that privilege is pretty low since it requires a lot of collaboration. Also this is not about "doing anything" in the sense of stopping ICE. This is about an individuals right to choose who they want to support and work with. Would you really expect an immigrant to feel good about working with an organization like ICE and facilitating their bad behavior?

That's fair, but we are diving into subjective territory. Lets say (hypothetically) that half of the employees support ICE. Who decides then whether or not the contract is maintained? (Unlikely scenario in this case, but I am more interested in the general precedent than this specific scenario, so just playing devil's advocate)

Also, lets say you are the CEO who proposes that you should NOT work with ICE, but all of your employees believe you should. In that case, it is obviously not as simple as just listening to what your employees want.

Yeah those are good points. I'm not really sure how that could be handled well. It has to be handled on a case by case basis. In this situation specifically though the CEO says that he doesn't support their actions either so seems like a simpler case of "Hey my employees brought this to my attention and I agree with them"

> to be clear: I also find policies such as separating families and detaining children wrong and contrary to the best interests of our country.

"I simply have all the ability and none of the desire to do anything about it"

I can see where he's coming from: if he refuses to do business with ICE because he disagrees with something they're doing (whether he or they are actually wrong), he's implicitly endorsing every aspect of every customer he does choose to do business with.

This is common 'tech guy' thinking where an action is immoral and impossible unless it can be generalized to apply to every situation for all time.

It's bullshit though. That isn't how life works, it's not a humane standard to hold people to, and no one does it.

You make judgements. The squeaky wheel gets noticed. And just because you notice one squeaky wheel doesn't mean you are required to inspect every wheel for potential squeaks every time you are aware there may be wheels somewhere in the future.

I disagree with that implication. Refusing to do business with ICE in this context is just saying that their actions are so bad that they cannot support that level of evil. All that implies of the people they continue to work is they don't meet that threshold of evil. It's not a black and white thing.

By this logic no one can ever take a stand, lest they be criticized for being inconsistent in the application of their principles. Gotta start somewhere, no?

That’s what these types want, though. They want to have plausible deniability and a solid excuse while they’re cashing their checks, they don’t actually want to make hard choices.

Also committing to scrutinize the internal business practices of every future partner. It's easy enough to point at ICE and say that they're actions don't align with your values. But you're setting a precedent for your company - one that will be very hard to live up to down the road.

You don't see the divide between those who operate concentration camps, and those who do not?

Mr. Crist is not just the CEO of Chef. He is also a citizen of the United States of America. As a citizen, he has duties that should take priority over his responsibilities as Chef CEO. By virtue of his position as CEO, his influence and his responsibility to wield that influence in the public interest are greater.

No they aren't. They haven't scrutinized ICE at all - they're operating on nationally reported information.

What ability does Chef have to change family separation and detainment? These things would still be happening if ICE had to go back to whatever they were using before Chef.

but they might be harder. Which is the point. Private people can resist abhorrent policies by putting up roadblocks or at least not making it easier

Harder how? Explain how making ICEs deployment pipeline slower will make ICE release migrants or stop family separation.

If you want to claim that Chef should cease business with ICE explicitly on the moral grounds that no company should have any business with the agency, that is a valid claim. But to say that Chef had any influence, let alone "all the ability" as the root commenter wrote, to affect ICE's conduct is not a statement I find to be honest.

If anything, this sort of thing makes it worse for the immigrants awaiting asylum hearings: if it's harder to keep track of who's there, it's harder to process them. There was a company whose employees walked out when they found out they were making beds for ICE detainment facilities... resulting in fewer beds for detainees.

I am sure if chef withrdrew their services then suddenly the entire DHS would become sane and kind.

You're suggesting that nobody should every take a stand for what they feel is right and good because their actions are too insignificant anyway? Grim.

People should definitely take a stand against something that they were previously okay with when another administration was in power.

No, the above poster is pointing out the dishonesty in claiming that Chef has the ability to stop family separation and detainment.

I don't see anyone claiming that

> badrequest 17 minutes ago [-]

> > to be clear: I also find policies such as separating families and detaining children wrong and contrary to the best interests of our country.

> "I simply have all the ability and none of the desire to do anything about it"

The root commenter seems to be saying that the CEO of chef has "all the ability" to change this situation.

As CEO of Chef, Barry Crist has the authority to say, "Chef will withdraw from all ICE contracts. We cannot change ICE's policies, but we are not obligated to remain complicit in the harm these policies cause."

He could have said this. He could have taken a stand and set an example. He chose to take the easy way out, and I think there are too many people in this thread willing to make excuses for his moral cowardice.

He may have done the right thing as a CEO, but he has failed miserably as a human being and an American citizen.

No. DHS would not reform. But at least Chef would no longer be complicit.

I’m genuinely curious - what is the government supposed to do with illegal immigrants before they’re sent back home (after asylum hearing). Are they supposed to be put up in apartments? Barracks? House per family?

I’ve heard that people disagree with the immigrants current treatment, but I expect there’s a spectrum of accommodations which people would consider acceptable.

I haven’t considered the logistics and legalities of housing adults with minors who may or not be their actual parents. Do they need to be separated? I suspect there’s a complexity which I don’t appreciate.

What typically happened in the past is that most migrants have family in the US. So they let them into the country while they’re being processed. They are given a court date and can continue to live life here until that court date.

What probably happens often is that these folks don’t show up to their court date, because they never planned to. By then they’ve already assimilated into the local economy with no papers.

Some middle ground seems in order here. So yeah I’d say we don’t separate the families and find other ways to track them, either keeping them in a refugee camp (together) if the numbers are hard to manage, OR using some kind of technology to track them while you release them until their court dates.

The key here is that we are a civilized nation of laws, and it is simply cruel to separate families, especially when the kids have done nothing wrong but tag along with their parents. They’re given essentially a life sentence through trauma that they may never shake. And that’s just cruel and unusual punishment in any circumstance, let alone given to an innocent sort of accomplice.

I am pro-ICE, pro-immigration, and anti-human-trafficking. Ice separates children from human traffickers and parents alike. Human traffickers bring children to the U.S. for sale by the tens of thousands every year. We should praise ICE for their commitment to protect children & their families who have traveled to America illegally. If they want to seek refuge, they should use our immigration system to seek refuge instead of sneaking into our country.

Praise, for putting people in camps with inadequate medical care and inhumane treatment? I'll pass on the praise,thanks

So isn't the solution to improve the medical care and treatment?

How is removing a library for a DevOps program going to do that? Isn't it just useless virtue signaling that won't actually have any effect?

Everyone has a right for what they believe. Removing a library does as much effect as someone protesting on the street with a sign holding what they believe.

Like that 13 year kid (can’t rememer name) alone in front of parliament on school strike with a sign. Then more kids joined. Now entire cities are like Melbourne have massive protests for school strikes.

Suppose developers of Google, Microsoft and Amazon all protest against ICE and refuse to work for a project their involved, it’s a big signal.

But reality is money can buy most people’s souls.

Kudos to the guy.

Greta Thunberg

I am pro-immigration and wish for every immigrant to be given a good shot at great opportunities.

Chef did the right thing. It's not up to individual employees to sabotage company assets because of their own political viewpoints. I hope that employee is thrown in jail.

This is a case that could set a precedent for other companies and is worth a good debate. I believe it comes down to values. Here's a simple example to explain.

Suppose I am a CEO of a consulting firm. I have a client who pays us a lot of money and have had a good relationship with for years. Now suppose I've hired and brought another person to meet this client for several months. The meetings seem to go well but (let's say 9 months later), Another employee brings to my attention that the client had been consistently harassing the person I hired to manage the account.

I now have two choices, re-assign the person I just hired or "fire" the client, permanently ending the relationship. What are the values of my company? That's the question that needs to be asked. What's the right thing to do?

If I choose to re-assign the person I hired, I would not be addressing the problem, not holding the client to the same bar I would have for my own employees. I'm telling the client and my employees that I value the contract more than them and more than the values of my company. The side effect is that it reinforces the bad behavior.

This is essentially what has occurred in this scenario. Except the harassment is not towards Chef's employees it's towards civilian children and their parents.

Having said that, companies don't always get it right the first time but it's our job to inform them of their error. Executive teams often are flooded pools of confirmation bias where dissent rarely occurs. I don't think "combing" is really necessary but like anything else, when the spotlight shows up. It's usually in the company's best interest to distance itself.

[edit: fix grammar]

This whole thing has gone too far. By “thing,” I mean that every action of every person, past or present, must inform all future interactions with any other person or entity. It’s a problem caused by the information we have today (who would have known this in the past?) but the end result is that we as a people are more divided and isolated from all people other than those who share our worldview exactly.

Well, this seems more effective than a toothless walkout at least. I'm not sure what to think of this really. Does the axed employee deserve praise? What legal ramifications will he/she be facing for the act?

Seth Vargo works now at Google Cloud. Will he break it next? Is Google Cloud a risk for our company?


Seth's move impacted Chef's customers.

Google Cloud may have contracts with ICE. So Seth may want to do something against Google and therefore impact us indirectly.

Would he be morally wrong to do so?

What does this say about doing business with firms of low moral standards?


I'm more than familiar with the quote.

There is the matter of degree.

Sounds like you're trying to say "yes" without actually saying "yes", though, in truth.

Where is the limit? Linux is certainly used somewhere by criminal rings to sell drugs killing children. PHP is certainly used by criminal groups advertising escorts victim of human trafficking.

Are open source projects now at risk? Will phpmyadmin break because an antispecist contributor discovered that McDonalds is using this tool? Will ubuntu break because an anti-vaxxer contributor has discovered that GSK is using this os?

Or when some right-wing pastry cooker will discover than the wedding cake he's making will be used in a same-sex marriage ?

This is a very professional and tempered response supported by reason and sound company values. I applaud the CEO for not giving in to the mobs.

Regarding the deleted Ruby gems:

I think it's unprofessional for developers to try and bring down production services just because they disagree with a company move. It's also a bit immature. The thing to do in this case is to quit. Down your tools and quit, but don't destroy the hard work of your teammates and betray the trust of all your investors and customers.

Ideologues often don't that care much about being professional or reasonable.

Sometimes you reach a point where being reasonable and professional becomes counterproductive.

Sometimes you reach a point where the doublethink necessary to seem reasonable and professional leaves you despising yourself.

Sometimes it isn't enough to ask, "What would John Galt do?"

In times like these, sometimes the only reasonable question is, "What would Howard Roark do?"

His answer, when his work was misused in a manner he could no longer bear to tolerate, was to break out the dynamite.

An ethos that can be used to justify anything, given sufficiently crafted and amplified rhetoric.

Speaking of crafted and amplified rhetoric, let's get back to Barry Crist's justification for allowing Chef to continue to due business with ICE.

He invokes principle to seem high-minded, but his guiding principle is not patriotism but profit. He is merely hiding behind patriotism.

All I am doing is drawing upon literature (I am using the term loosely, but I suspect it is probable that more HN members have read The Fountainhead than the Iliad) to show that being able to live with yourself and the uses to which your work is put is more important than seeming "professional" or "reasonable".

More fundamentally, this was an attempt to damage the customers of a former employer. In effect, it's no different from logic bombs and tech vandalism in general. While there may be a case for "their public work, they can do whatever" I'd put money on this person announcing their intent to take down customer systems which makes it malicious.

I'm OK with sabotage that does not resort in injuries or loss of life as a means of nonviolent protest.

Are you also ok with this means of protest being directed at your property?

I have insurance. :)

It sounds you're saying that the developer who deleted their gems in protest shouldn't actually own their work, because exercising their rights as owners might inconvenience others.

Unfortunately, when you work for a company, you've, in most cases, chosen to trade your rights to your work over to the company. The company owns the intellectual property

I am aware of how work-for-hire works. I've been in this trade for twenty years. It is why I only pretend to be passionate about "my" work. I know it is not truly mine, and embrace alienation from my labor as a coping mechanism.

I think it's our moral imperative to prevent our work from being used for acts that betray our values. Take a second and remember that the gas chambers used by Hitler to inflict a genocide were designed by engineers. I think we all agree that those engineers should have sabotaged their own work to prevent harm coming to the victims of the Holocaust, and it's very surprising to me that you're defending profits and investors over moral values.

I'm not surprised. There are a lot of techies who took Ayn Rand a little too seriously and think that profits are themselves a moral value, and that investors are somehow beyond reproach by virtue of their wealth.

I might paraphrase Rand to suit my purpose as the Devil quotes Scripture, but I have to say that for such an ardent atheist, Ayn Rand's worship of wealth and those who possess sounds a lot like prosperity gospel.

Then again, if you're trying to get a startup off the ground or hope to work for a rising startup, it probably isn't smart to bite the hand that might feed you.

> "I want to be clear that this decision is not about contract value — it is about maintaining a consistent and fair business approach in these volatile times. I do not believe that it is appropriate, practical, or within our mission to examine specific government projects with the purpose of selecting which U.S. agencies we should or should not do business."

So if this were 1940, and he lived in germany would he gladly continue doing business w/ the country knowing they're gassing jews?

I mean it's the government they always have our best interests in mind right? We should always support the government we live in no matter what right? Seriously? Without question?

This CEO is obtuse, and probably shouldn't be running a tech company.

Concentration camp, internment centre for political prisoners and members of national or minority groups who are confined for reasons of state security, exploitation, or punishment, usually by executive decree or military order. Persons are placed in such camps often on the basis of identification with a particular ethnic or political group rather than as individuals and without benefit either of indictment or fair trial. Concentration camps are to be distinguished from prisons interning persons lawfully convicted of civil crimes and from prisoner-of-war camps in which captured military personnel are held under the laws of war.


If my Infrastructure code includes only chef recipes and chef objects, will this yank lead to breaking changes(even though we don't use chef sugar)

Gee, what about companies that supply things to Planned Parenthood?

There are a lot of people that think PP is immoral (especially given the origins in eugenics). Should employees of those companies rise up and try to harm their employers, too?

For the record, I am against such action. Firmly against. Politics is personal and should not extend beyond your personal rights.

Good. Businesses passing judgment on their customers due to public pressure from vocal activists is not a good precedent.

You make it sound like this is some squeaky minority pressure group, as opposed to people making the bold claim that perhaps we should not be holding children apart from their parents in camps with despicable care standards including lack of basic medical care.

Good. Every company which refuses to work with ICE makes their job more difficult. That's not going to make ICE go away, it's just going to increase the likelihood that they make beaurocratic mistakes (e.g. detain US citizens), inappropriately secure their data, or a million other little operational failures.

This is actually a tough thing to deal with for executives. I can see some black and white issues like providing software to the Chinese government or some other authoritarian regime like that. In the US where the government only lasts for 4 years would it be prudent to sever ties like that? Software and services contracts are meant to last longer than (hopefully). So the slot once gone is gone. Also, the same people who are with ICE procurement will be there after Trump leaves. Will they be willing to talk to them later on? Even if the government's agenda changed, chances are the personal agendas of the employees in ICE have not. So how should that impact the decision making? Would it not be better to provide funding to causes you (or the employees) believe in rather than severing ties with organizations when its within the US?

I took the liberty of invoking Godwin's Law and re-purposed this template, it should make you consider how weak this statement really is.

""" While I understand that many of you and many of our community members would prefer we had no business relationship with the Third Reich, I have made a principled decision, with the support of the IBM executive team, to work with the institutions of our government, regardless of whether or not we personally agree with their various policies. """

I believe you’ve hit the nail on the head with this.

This is the most accurate and succinct way to show how this looks.

Except it's not. ICE is not the Third Reich, period.


That's a ridiculous statement. Not just dishonest, but totally offensive to a certain ethnic group. Please consider your words next time.

Right, that's why this group is totally fine with our treatment of detainees in these camps.


This is delusional at best, but i suspect just blatantly dishonest.

Godwin's Law is supposed to demonstrate the reductive nature of comparing everything to Nazism, it's supposed to be a logical fallacy.


The lazy mis-characterization of our border facilities as concentration camps is exactly what I'm talking about, while also being a wildly inappropriate comparison in a country with many Holocaust survivors.

"Our ancestors died because as Germany built towards genocide, companies like IBM powered & profited from their persecution


I don't think you can retroactively change the meaning of a point you made decades earlier.

Get back to me in a quarter century.

Fair enough -- and if I claim that my statement doesn't actually apply to specific future circumstances in a way that supports my current personal beliefs feel free to ignore me.

That was the first thing I thought of when I read Crist's statement, and it is the reason I have been so harsh in my condemnation.

> the Third Reich

Not to get hyperbolic, but... you don't actually think that the U.S. government is equivalent to the Third Reich, do you?


Ok, but in this example the Japanese Americans are not Americans and they traveled thousands of miles to voluntarily join the internment camps.

False on both counts.

I really don't see how, could you elaborate?

Many of the internees were in fact citizens.

Internment was not voluntary.

Succumbing to bad advice and popular opinion, President Roosevelt signed an executive order in February 1942 ordering the RELOCATION of all Americans of Japanese ancestry to CONCENTRATION CAMPS in the interior of the United States.


From EO9066 itself:

by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time designate, whenever he or any designated Commander deems such action necessary or desirable, to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion.


Also cited here, which adds:

Nearly 70,000 of the evacuees were American citizens. The government made no charges against them, nor could they appeal their incarceration. All lost personal liberties; most lost homes and property as well. Although several Japanese Americans challenged the government’s actions in court cases, the Supreme Court upheld their legality. Nisei were nevertheless encouraged to serve in the armed forces, and some were also drafted. Altogether, more than 30,000 Japanese Americans served with distinction during World War II in segregated units.


You read his comment backwards.

Apparently. The phrasing is not straightforward.

My apologies.

Having read this, I think that Barry Crist's use of "my country's government, right or wrong" in defense of supporting Trump-era ICE's indefensible methods proves that an old adage still holds true.

"[false] Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." --Samuel Johnson, 1775

Barry Crist thinks he is doing the principled thing, but I see him for what he is: the most despicable of cowards, a man who has the power to help change the world for the better, but chooses instead to uphold a profitable status quo.

Any person of conscience working for Chef should resign in protest immediately.

That's not what he's saying at all. He's saying that Chef is in the business of providing devops software. They're not a government watchdog. They're not the ethics police. They're not political or social activist organization. I fail to see the problem. Finally, not selling chef to ICE won't change anything.

I bet that's the same sort of sophistry that allowed IBM's management to justify doing business with the Nazi regime.

I know what Crist is saying. And it smells like self-serving bullshit to me. He doesn't want to do the right thing as a human being and as an American citizen because it would cut into Chef's revenues and upset the company's shareholders and investors.

As far as I am concerned, this is unforgivable moral cowardice. As soon as I learned that Accenture was taking ICE blood money, I quit without notice and lived off my savings for three months until I could find another job at a company that didn't profit from human rights abuses at the hands of the Federal government.

I'm just a middle-aged college dropout who doesn't even make six figures, and I still managed to do the right thing as an American and a human being. What's this guy's excuse?

Pretty much every tech company, hundreds of consulting firms, dozens of construction firms, etc, etc do business with DoHS and ICE. These are huge organizations with thousands of employees that buy products and services from thousands of suppliers. Everything from software to sock. Are you gonna get angry with all of those companies too? And what about the DEA, FBI, NSA, CIA and DoD? They all do things that some Americans consider evil. And they all buy from the hundreds of tech firms big and small. Everyone from Amazon to Oracle. From HP to Cisco. It just seems mean and petty to pick on Chef to me.

> It just seems mean and petty to pick on Chef to me.

I'm picking on Chef because somebody ought to, and it might as well be me.

There isn't a word I could say that would actually harm Chef, so they do not need your concern.

You're conflating defending the actions of an employee with judging organizations for doing business with morally questionable entities.

Do I think everyone should deny ICE contracts? No. Do I believe an employee should have the right to prevent their work being used for acts that they object to? Yes.

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