I've mentioned it a few times over the years . . .
Across the street at BJ.com you can use embedded photos?
I might be wrong but wouldn't embedding use less bandwidth (if that's the issue) as the images reside on Photobucket's (or some similar site's) server?
There is one advantage to the current method. And that's the content stays intact over the years. Look at any forum that's been around a long time using embedded images and a lot of the early stuff disappears when people lose or close their photo hosting accounts.
On the other hand doing it via attachment may legally give Namemedia some ownership/use rights over images that are posted. Haven't read the fine print so I'm not sure about that one.
I think that originally it was just because of the number of people who still had slower connections -- attachments lets them pick and choose. As someone who had a dial-up at the time, I really appreciated that.