The second point, which several commenters raised, was that there were a lot of people under the trees. I included the actual Google Earth kml files for the polygon I used in my original piece, but there were technical issues with making them available through the PJM site. So here’s a screen shot of the polygon (click to get full size):
As you can see, I did include a lot of the area under the trees, particularly on the north side of the reflecting pool. It’s certainly possible I didn’t include all the possible area, but again I was trying to make sure any errors were on the low side.
Reader David Thomasson passed along an interesting comparison, as well. David is a professional retoucher who used his Photoshop skills to make this comparison:
Here is a visual aid that might give some idea of the crowd size.
At the WW2 Memorial, the distance between the two pillars is, by chance, 120 yards — the length of a football field including the end zones (you can verify that on Google Earth, which has an extremely accurate ruler):This photo of the Orange Bowl was taken from about the same perspective as the shot of the mall during the Beck rally. I resized it so the field matches the distance between the pillars. The Orange Bowl in this configuration had a capacity of about 76,000. Its maximum capacity reached 80,000 at some point, though I don’t think it was in the configuration shown here:
Now, these pictures could be a little misleading, since there is pretty substantial foreshortening as we head toward the Lincoln Memorial, but taken with the appropriate amount of salt I think it’s a good comparison: CBS News would make this crowd “only” the size of an Orange Bowl crowd, and that doesn’t seem to match at all well.
In any case, I think commenter “FredB” wrote the perfect conclusion:
“You can see November from the Washington Monument.”