Dear Mike Elgan,
With previous versions of Firefox, you could just position your mouse pointer on the close box and close large numbers of tabs by simply clicking. Now, with the new version, you've got to slowly hunt and peck your way to closing Tabs -- just like IE
You might be interested in the browser.tabs.closeButtons preference. I believe you want to set it to 3.
Extensions such as TabMixPlus may also be of interest to you; as well as providing a gui for this (I haven't checked, but I'd be shocked if they didn't), they make visible a whole host of other functionality hidden inside firefox.
Thanks for your little rant though, it was amusing. I'm curious about why the preference seems to have changed value when you upgraded though - if you can reproduce it, it sounds like it would be worth filing a bug report about.
(note to self: before writing posts like this, check the responses to see the thousands of other people telling him to do the same).