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Sounds like something is pretty badly b0rked if it's hanging on bringing up the loopback interface. Try booting into single user mode (append the word single to the kernel command line, just as you did with nousb) and trying to see what has gone wrong. Hopefully dmesg and/or the system logs should give you some ideas.
well, looking at dmesg
it appears the first sign of trouble comes much earlier, in PCI checks as follows (pardon the typos, I'm transcribing)
(booting with "nousb noprobe text single")
PCI: PCI BIOS revision 2.10 entry at 0xfdb81, last bus=2
PCI: Using configuration type 1
PCI: Probing PCI hardware
PCI: Cannot allocate resource region 0 of device 00:12.0
PCI: Cannot allocate resource region 1 of device 00:12.0
PCI: Cannot allocate resource region 0 of device 00:12.1
PCI: Cannot allocate resource region 1 of device 00:12.1
Limiting direct PCI/PCI transfers.
then later after the file systems are mounted
PCI: Enabling device 00:12.1 (0000 -> 0003)
PCI: No IRQ known for interrupt pin B of deviced 00:12.1. Please try using pci=biosirq.
Unable to handle kernel NULL pointer dereference at virtual address 00000000
*pde = 00000000
and then a bunch of values that includes a dump of registers and a stack and call trace on a pci_driver... ?
I don't even know if this is related to the other issues
perhaps I should just backup and install a clean install of RH9 (this was an upgrade from 7.3)