I, for one, endorse your approach of getting the foundations right before building towers atop.
I venture in explanation of the character set controversy: IIRC You have written of wanting Arc to be good specifically for web programming. (And obviously you are using it thus.) Ascii is fine when working on code to do symbolic differentiation (as I believe McCarthy was interested in at the dawns of time). But for a web app for the Chinese market, say, Unicode is obviously going to be involved. I think perhaps people were just expecting 'new web-app language' to entail Unicode support.
"I think perhaps people were just expecting 'new web-app language' to entail Unicode support." -- I would go further: I would say that many of us consider Unicode support an essential; it's part of getting the foundations right. PG mentioned hearing/reading Guido talk about the pain of switching Python's character support--but what was painful was the switching, not the character sets. The sooner Arc makes that switch, the less pain it'll be.