Per Chris' post below on the shameless and Orwellian (though hardly surprising) efforts of the Clinton campaign to refer to super-delegates as "automatic delegates," Ted Bromund has an interesting piece tracing the history of these all too powerful delegates and the reason for their existence: to protect the party from itself.
A question to ask Democrats getting hot and bothered about the notion of super-delegates (and people belonging to a political outfit called the "Democratic Party" have every right to be hot and bothered about this) is whether they opposed super-delegates back in 2000 (or at any convention onwards from 1980, when the party instituted the system). As Bromund points out, Donna Brazile -- a super-delegate who has threatened to leave the Democratic Party if her fellow party bosses pick the nominee this year -- didn't seem to have a problem with this undemocratic process back in 2000. True, that primary was never as competitive as the present one, but had that race made it to the convention, the super-delegates would have overwhelmingly favored the establishment (and incumbent) Gore over the insurgent Bradley. Had this occurred, I think it's safe to assume that Brazile and her folk probably would have worked themselves into the same contortions that Hillary's spinmeisters are now.